Friday, November 11, 2011

Deconstructing the Planned Parenthood Myth

At a recent Houston gala, numerous well-known Texans gathered to pay tribute to Peter J. Durkin, retiring CEO of Planned Parenthood-Gulf Coast. The City of Houston declared a “Peter J. Durkin Day,” and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee called Durkin a “true American Hero.” What was not mentioned is that Durkin's Planned Parenthood is in very deep trouble.

For starters, PPGC and Peter Durkin himself are under investigation for massive Medicaid fraud. Former employee Karen Reynolds has filed a complaint with the Texas Attorney General and the U.S. Department of Justice alleging that the organization systematically falsified medical charts for abortion clients to make it appear as if these clients came in for other services. Included in the complaint are memos instructing employees on how to falsify records in order to obtain Medicaid reimbursements.

But this allegation is only the latest in a series of revelations that are shattering the mythology surrounding Planned Parenthood. In addition to Medicaid fraud, the organization is also under investigation for enabling sex trafficking of girls as young as 14. Although Americans have seen the organization as a “friend to women,” they are slowly discovering the ugly truth.

Originally founded as a birth control clinic, Planned Parenthood has been portrayed as an advocate for women's health. The organization proudly touts founder Margaret Sanger's work to legalize birth control, but carefully sidesteps Sanger's documented speaking engagements with the Ku Klux Klan and her many articles promoting eugenics. Her writings indicate that Sanger was an angry and resentful woman who loathed large families and the “human weeds” of the “lesser races.” Sanger would be pleased to know that about half of all African American pregnancies now end in abortion.

Marketing the organization as a 'healthcare' provider has been highly successful; corporations and charities have funneled billions of dollars into Planned Parenthood coffers. In addition to massive taxpayer-funded subsidies from all levels of government, groups such as the Susan G. Komen Foundation, United Way, and the March of Dimes have donated millions to Planned Parenthood for 'healthcare,' often under the guise of fighting breast cancer. Never mind that this 'non-profit' reports anywhere from $62 million to $114 million in annual profits.

While Planned Parenthood claims most services are non-abortion health care, former PPGC Employee of the Year Abby Johnson, has described how the organization manipulates reporting data to mislead donors. If a client receives a prescription for birth control pills, PP reports 12 'healthcare' services, one for each month of the year. Abortion services, even those requiring multiple visits, are counted as only one 'service.' Planned Parenthood's health care statistics are largely the result of accounting gimmicks.

Furthermore, despite receiving millions for breast cancer prevention, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, not a single Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas even has equipment or licensing for mammograms. And as for the highly touted doctor-patient relationship, the only occasion in which doctors have any contact with patients at PP clinics is during an abortion procedure. If a client needs a medical doctor for anything else, she is then referred to a real women's health care clinic.

None of this, not even the alleged complicity in sexually exploiting minor girls, should come as any surprise. For both individuals and organizations, foundations matter. Furthermore, one cannot compartmentalize just one 'unethical act' without corrupting the whole. Despite the 'compassionate' arguments for abortion, the bottom line is that a human being is killed in the process, and all the pseudo-ethical and intellectual contortions in the world cannot make it otherwise. The myth is shattered; these are not our 'friends.' Planned Parenthood is and always has been a wolf in sheep's clothing, and it is time to bring Margaret Sanger's twisted legacy to an end.

Note:  This is a column I wrote for the Hill Country News.  One reader has suggested that I've never been inside a Planned Parenthood Clinic and so I don't have any credibility.  Well, I have been inside a Planned Parenthood clinic- as a patient.  It was a soul-less place I won't forget. 

Another aspect I did not mention in my previous column is that Planned Parenthood is not concerned with whether or not patients are being coerced or forced into an abortion. 

From Dr. Allen Unruh:  "
Unruh, who studied abortion for a state task force in 2005, said that Planned Parenthood maintains willful ignorance about the majority of women who have abortions against their will.
The threats often come from a boyfriend, husband, parent or other party.
“The task force revealed it was 65%,” Unruh told CNA in a May 31 interview. “Planned Parenthood admitted under oath that they don’t have anybody who has any training, of any kind, in counseling to determine when a woman’s being coerced.”

Read more:

Friday, November 4, 2011

Early Voting Turnout: Dismal

The Williamson County Elections office has posted the Early Voting totals through Thursday, November 3.  5,275 people have voted in Wilco, 2.2% of registered voters. 

While I would rather the un-informed just stayed home, I find it disturbing that so few of my neighbors care enough to spend about 15 minutes looking over the various ballot initiatives and take the time to vote.  It is this lack of civic knowledge and duty that has burdened taxpayers with excessive government spending and debt patterns, not just at the Federal level, but at the local level too.  Texans now owe $174.55 billion in local government debt.   

Voting is easy, and there are lots of educational resources.  You can vote today until 7pm at any open location in the county.  Your last chance will be next Tuesday, November 8.  Keep in mind that on Tuesday you will only be able to vote at your assigned precinct location.  You can look up your location online at the Williamson County Elections Office website

Texas House District 149: Meet the Candidate

Tony Dale, Republican candidate for the newly-created Texas House District 149, will hold a "Meet the Candidate" event on Tuesday, November 8, 2011, from 5:30-7:30pm, at the Crystal Falls Golf Club in Leander.  Special guests include Williamson County Commissioner Cynthia Long and Leander City Councilman Christopher Fielder.  There is no cost to attend (but I'm sure Mr. Dale would appreciate any campaign contributions).   

Dale currently serves on the Cedar Park City Council, is a decorated Army veteran,  and has a very impressive resume of Republican activism.  I cannot imagine a better candidate to represent western Williamson County. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Early Voting for 2011 Elections Begins Monday

Early Voting for the Texas Constitutional Amendment Election begins MONDAY, October 24, and Election Day is November 8, 2011.  All Texans will vote on 10 proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution.  Some of these proposals are controversial, and several entities have put together Free Voters Guides.  Again, there is a fantastic round-up of the various guides and analyses at Michele Samuelson's blog, Blue Dot Blues.

There are a variety of proposals on local ballots in Williamson County.

Hutto Independent School District is asking voters to approve a tax increase of $.06 per $100 valuation.  This will give HISD residents a school tax rate of $1.60. 

The City of Round Rock has 10 of its own propositions on the ballot.  Propositions #1-8 are merely 'housekeeping,' and update terms and definitions in the City Charter.  Propositions #9 and #10 are more controversial. 

*Proposition 9 adds 2% to the local hotel tax to finance an indoor sports venue.  The tax is estimated to bring in $630,000 per year, and the sports facility is estimated to cost $12 million, which, according to the city website "does not include land, design and engineering costs or related infrastructure."  It is unclear as to whether the venue tax will cover all costs.    

*Proposition 10 regards a half-cent sales tax approved by voters back in 1997.  The original approval was under the condition that the funds would be used only for major road and transportation projects related to economic development.  This tax, called "Type B revenue," is limited by Texas law to economic development programs, and Round Rock originally limited theirs to road and transportation.  If voters approve Proposition 10, the city can use the revenues for other economic development projects as defined by State Law.  According to literature from Texas Comptroller Susan Combs these uses include:

"Paying for land, buildings, equipment, facilities expenditures, targeted infrastructure and improvements found suitable for the use of...professional and amateur sports and athletic facilities, tourism and entertainment facilities, convention facilities, public park purposes and event facilities (including stadiums, ballparks, concert halls, etc.) * related store, restaurant, concession, parking and transportation facilities * related street, water and sewer facilities * affordable housing."   

The City of Round Rock has an informational page regarding these propositions, and the literature from the Texas Comptroller's office is available here 

Highlands at Mayfield Ranch Municipal Utility District, Northwoods Road District No. 1, Williamson County Water, Sewer, Irrigation and Drainage District No. 3, Wilco-Liberty Hill MUD, and others are seeking voter approval for various bond packages, (which amount to approval for a tax increase.)  Williamson County Emergency Services District No. 1 (Jollyville) is seeking approval of a 1% local sales and use tax. 

Sample ballots are available at the Williamson County Elections Department website.  

Remember that during the Early Voting period, you may vote at any location in the county.  However, on Election Day you may only vote at the assigned location for your precinct.  

FULL TIME LOCATIONS, Open Oct. 24-November 2, 8am to 6pm, No Sunday Voting, and November 3 and 4 7am to 7pm. 

Main Location:  Williamson County Inner Loop Annex, 301 SE Inner Loop, Georgetown.

Branch Locations: 
Anderson Mill Limited District
Cedar Park Public Library
Parks & Recreation Admin. Building, Georgetown
McConico Building, Round Rock
Brushy Creek Community Center, Round Rock
Taylor City Hall
Pat Bryson Municipal Hall, Leander
Cedar Park Randalls, Cypress Creek Road
Round Rock Randalls, Gattis School Road
J.B. and Hallie Jester Annex, Round Rock

MOBILE - TEMPORARY LOCATIONSMonday, October 24 through Wednesday, November 2, 10am to 6pm, No Sunday Voting
Thursday, November 3 and Friday, November 4, 7am to 7pm

Oct 24, Monday:   Seton Medical Center Williamson, 201 Seton Parkway, Round Rock
Oct 25, Tuesday:  Granger City Hall, 214 E. Davilla, Granger
Oct 26, Wednesday:  RR Higher Education Center, Round Rock                                             
Oct 27, Thursday:  Clairmont Retirement Community, 12463 Los Indios Trail, Austin               
Oct 28, Friday:  Liberty Hill Annex, 3407 RR 1869, Liberty Hill
Oct 29, Saturday:  Liberty Hill Annex, 3407 RR 1869, Liberty Hill 
Oct 31, Monday:  Jarrell Memorial Park, 1651 CR 305, Jarrell     
Nov 1, Tuesday:  Hutto City Hall, 401 W. Front St., Hutto       
Nov 2, Wednesday:  Hutto City Hall, 401 W. Front St., Hutto
Nov 3, Thursday:  Hutto City Hall, 401 W. Front St., Hutto
Nov 4, Friday:  Hutto City Hall, 401 W. Front St., Hutto                            


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Texas Constitutional Amendment Election 2011

For those looking for information on the November 8 Constitutional Amendment Election, you just can't go wrong with Michele Samuelson's Blue Dot Blues blogsite.  She is maintaining a great round-up of the various Voter Guides and Analyses from both sides of the aisle.  Check it out.

Many of our local government entities in Williamson County will have proposals on the ballot as well, including some tax increase proposals for Hutto ISD and Round Rock.  Sample ballots are available at the Williamson County Elections website here.

Regretfully, personal family issues are preventing me from conducting my own investigation and analysis at this time. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Williamson County Republican Primary Updates

Updated October 12

Update with my limited knowledge of Republican Primaries effecting Williamson County.
(Just for the record: I am not making any endorsements.)

Texas Senate, District 5:  With Steve Ogden's retirement, Representative Charles Schwertner announced his candidacy, and most pundits consider him a shoe-in.  There have been some rumors about a possible Bryan/College station candidate, but no announements as of yet. 

Texas House District 20:  Since Dr. Schwertner seems to be heading to the State Senate, SBOE member Marsha Farney and former TC Republican Party Vice-Chair Jeff Fleece have announced candidacy for HD20.  Two other possibilities, Jeff Stockton of Georgetown and Burnet County GOP Chair Linda Rogers have indicated they will not run.

Texas House District 149:  After the overwhelming community support shown for Republican Tony Dale, all other candidates have bowed out.  Representative Larry Gonzales of HD 52 remains very popular and is unlikely to draw a GOP opponent. 

State Board of Education, District 10.  With Marsha Farney jumping to the Texas House District 20 race, former SBOE 10 candidate Rebecca Osborne has announced another run. 

Justice, Third Court of Appeals:  Scott Field has announced he will tackle Democrat Diane Henson for Place 3.  Amen to that.  Madeleine Connor has filed a treasurer form with the State; Connor ran for District Judge as a Democrat in 2008, but lost in the Primary.  In 2010 she ran as a Republican for Justice of the Peace and also lost in the Primary. 

425th District Court Judge:  Incumbent Republican Mark Silverstone will be challenged by local family law attorney Betsy Lambeth. for the GOP nomination. 

Williamson County Attorney:  Attorneys Hal Hawes and Rick Kennon have both filed to run against beleagured incumbent Jana Duty. 

Williamson County Commissioner, Precinct 3:  Incumbent Val Covey will be challenged by sometimes Republican Greg Windham, who ran against Covey as a Democrat in 2008 and briefly served as the Williamson County Democrat Party Chair in 2010. 

Supreme Court Justice, Place 2.  Steven Wayne Smith has filed a treasurer form to run against Republican Don Willett.  Smith lost in 1998, won in 2002, and lost again in 2004.  Smith previously challenged Willett in 2006. 

All of the known candidates for the Republican Primaries are listed at the Williamson County Republican Party website.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Williamson County Attorney Wars Updated

Update:  Repaired broken link to the Court of Appeals dismissal.
Updated October 12 

Until now, I have refrained from writing much about the trials and tribulations of the Williamson County Attorney's office. Republican Jana Duty was first elected to the office in 2004 and re-elected in 2008, but has developed increasingly antagonistic interactions with the County Judge, all four members of the Commissioners Court, all of the County Court at Law Judges, the Williamson County District Attorney, and pretty much any other judge handing an down unfavorable ruling. The broken attorney-client relationship led to the Commissioners' hiring of local attorney Hal Hawes to provide legal advice to the court. In response, Duty has attempted to sue the County Judge and Commissioners, but her lawsuits have been dismissed. The Commissioners Court filed grievances against Duty, and the State Bar of Texas has filed a lawsuit against her alleging multiple violations of the ethics code. Hawes, the former Assistant County Attorney under Jana Duty, is now running against her in the 2012 Republican Primary.  (As is Rick Kennon of Round Rock.)

 A local, 'anonymous' blogger, has been serving as something of a Jana Duty apologist, and has recently claimed that Hal Hawes was “admonished by the Texas Attorney General's Office.” Unfortunately, in his zeal to aid Ms. Duty, it seems the blogger mis-read the documents from the AG's office. Noted local activist Darlene Plyter (of the Georgetown-Area Tea Party Patriots) queried Hal Hawes about the alleged 'admonishment,' and Mr. Hawes provided her with the relevant documents from the AG's office, as well as his own summary. Rather than attempt to 're-summarize', I have included the communications and documents below so that readers can judge for themselves.

This is likely to be a particularly nasty primary race, and I have been warned that I shouldn't write about it since some of the persons involved are 'powerful' and tend to be 'retaliatory.'


I have no intention of endorsing any candidate in any Primary race this year, but I am not afraid to share important information with the voters, so here 'ya go.  

Update:  Supporters of Jana Duty have pointed out a very legitimate concern; It seems after moving the Assistant County Attorney position out of Duty's office, Hawes was given a 15.96% raise.  I'm guessing the premise is that he has more work on his own, but 15.96%?   Seriously?  Why does it seem only government employees and attorneys are thriving in this economy?

Ironically, while some of the folks embroiled in the Wilco attorney wars seem to be acting out of personal dislike for certain county commissioners, the vote for Hawes' raise was 3-2.  Commissioners Lisa Birkman and Val Covey voted nay.  This is pretty consistent for Birkman and Covey, who are the more fiscally conservative members of the Commissioners Court. 

Not sure this information helps Jana Duty much, but it is problematic for the county.

Email exchange between Darlene Plyter and Hal Hawes.  (I have obtained permission from Darlene Plyter to post this, but have redacted personal contact information.)

From: Darlene Plyter 
Sent: Saturday, October 01, 2011 12:35 PM
Subject: From Hal Hawes: Answer to my QUESTION
Importance: High

Thanks,  -dp

-------Original Message-------

From: Hal Hawes
Date: 9/30/2011 5:43:10 PM
To: 'Darlene

Ms. Plyter:
Thanks for your email and inquiry.  I would like to provide you with a response so the record reflects an accurate accounting of the facts.  Besides, as someone that pays a portion of my salary, you deserve a response. 
In order to provide you with an adequate response, I have enclosed the following documents:
1.     Attorney General’s Letter Ruling dated September 23, 2011, which was referred to in the blog set forth below;
2.     Letter of Clarification from me to the Texas Attorney General dated September 29, 2011.
The two attachments will help you fully understand what actually happened.  However, I would like to summarize the facts since both of the attachments are somewhat long.  My summary is as follows:
1.     *No employee of Williamson County, including myself, ever received the initial request for information, which was dated April 26, 2011.  The request was sent to an independent contractor of the county who was no longer providing services to the county.
2.     *The initial request was not a valid request since it was not sent to our public information officer or any other employee of the county.
3.     *Since Williamson County did not have any knowledge of the initial request, Williamson County could not respond to the request or seek a ruling from the Attorney General.  In other words, we couldn’t respond to something we did not receive or know about.
4.     *A second request for the same information was made by the requestor and it was received by me on August 1, 2011.
5.     *Once the second request was received by me, I sent a request for a ruling to the Attorney General within ten business days, as required by law.
6.     *At that point, it became the obligation of a third party to send arguments to the Attorney General if such third party wished to prevent the disclosure of the information.  Williamson County did not take a position on whether or not such documents should be released.
7.     *The third party did, in fact, send its arguments to the Attorney General.  The Attorney General considered the third party’s arguments and ruled that the requested information must be released.
*As you will note, nowhere in the Attorney General’s Letter Ruling is there any mention of anyone or any entity being “admonished.” 
*The Attorney General Letter Ruling does not state that any of the requested information must be released due to any alleged failure to respond to the first request or due to an “inadequate response” by Williamson County.   Rather, the ruling clearly states the Attorney General considered the third party’s arguments and made the ruling based on the third party’s arguments.
The accusations relating to a “non-disclosure agreement” and the compromising of material do not make any sense at all either.  The non-disclosure agreement that was discussed in commissioners court on June 15, 2010 prohibits SunGard from disclosing information owned or created by Tyler Technologies.  The non-disclosure agreement did not require the county to pledge not to release SunGard’s information.
I again want to thank you for giving me an opportunity to respond to these accusations rather than taking them as being correct and accurate.  If you should have any questions or comments after reading this email or the attachments, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Hal C. Hawes
Legal Advisor
Office of Williamson County Judge
710 Main Street, Suite 200
Georgetown, Texas 78626 

This e-mail transmission and any attachments contain information which is legally privileged and intended solely for use of the party to whom it is addressed. I request notification by telephone or e-mail of misrouted transmissions. If you received this e-mail in error, you are hereby notified that the disclosure, copying, distribution, or taking of any action in reliance upon the contents of this transmission is strictly prohibited. PERMISSION TO FORWARD WAS GIVEN by H.C.H.

From: Darlene Plyter
Sent: Friday, September 30, 2011 3:31 PM
To: Hal Hawes

Hello Hal Hawes,

This week we read on a blog  Wilco Watchdog that you were "admonished by the Attorney General's Office".  

Since you are Legal Advisor for Commissioners' Court, 'We the People of Williamson County' would like to know if this story is true or false, could you please advise?

I have been quite dismayed about the taxpayer dollars that are being spent on personal legal matters pertaining to the County Attorney, and feel an explanation is in order to the voters about it.  We trust you are not involved in all that; hopefully this is just a malicious bit of unrelated gossip....

Kindly awaiting your response,

Thanks so much,
Darlene Plyter & Friends -
Attorney General Letter Ruling Sept 23 2011 Letter of Clarification to AG 9.29.11

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Obama's Bridge Problem

Standing beside a 'functionally obsolete' bridge last week, President Obama insisted Congress must pass his $447 billion jobs bill so that aging bridges across the nation can be repaired and Americans can get back to work. While a few remaining Obama enthusiasts support the plan, most Americans and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are skeptical, and understandably so.

The claim we lack funds for bridge repairs is an obvious red herring. Federal law requires states to use 10% of transportation funds for 'enhancements,' including the establishment of transportation museums, scenic areas, and pedestrian education programs. The set-aside has been used to build a 'twin dragons' gateway to Chinatown in Los Angeles, a Corvette simulator in Kentucky, and a squirrel observation area in Tennessee. Entertaining as these enhancements may be, they hardly seem prudent when America's bridges are supposedly on the brink of collapse.

Of course the idea that we cannot repair our transportation infrastructure unless we raise taxes and/or sink the country further into debt is absurd. The number of federal spending programs that most Americans would consider dispensable are too numerous to list here, and the GAO recently reported that duplication in government costs taxpayers over $100 billion per annum. Surely amongst all this waste there are ample funds for bridge repair.

There is, however, a more fundamental problem with the American 'Jobs' bill: it is based on the false premise that government spending programs will create lasting jobs and strengthen the economy. While infrastructure repairs might create temporary jobs, raising taxes above sustainable levels will result in reduced economic activity, increased unemployment, and declining tax revenues over the long-term.

Proponents of higher taxes as a solution to our economic woes ignore the reality of human behavior. We acknowledge, and even hope for, potential behavior changes when advocating for 'sin taxes' like those on cigarettes and alcohol, but Leftists assume there will be no resulting change in behavior due to taxes on economic activity.

In practice, excessive taxes remove incentive and the very ability of private citizens to invest in economic activity, and they transfer capital into the hands of government bureaucrats. According to economic analysts James Sherk and Rea Hederman, each $1 increase in government spending reduces private-sector investment by as much as $.97. Historically, taxes above Laffer Curve levels have reduced economic activity and income levels, and resulted in declining tax revenues.

But the economic problems created by high taxes and excessive government spending and debt are not limited to the federal government. Texas has fared relatively well in this recession due to (relatively) conservative state fiscal policies, but analysts are sounding the alarm on local government activity. In our own community, the Leander school district's $1.2 billion in bond debt has led to one of the highest ISD property tax rates in the area and a 'negative outlook' designation from the Fitch Group. These problems are beginning to impact the local economy, which is seeing reduced growth and falling property values.

While the Left argues that deficit spending creates needed jobs, government programs are notorious for waste and inefficiency. Analysts note that recent 'stimulus' bills cost taxpayers a minimum of $228,055 for each job created or “saved.” Although government spending has increased 4.8% since 2008, national unemployment and poverty rates continue to grow at alarming rates.

If our elected leaders are serious about 'stimulating' economy, they should look at factors that inhibit business. The United States has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the world, and according to Senator Susan Collins, federal agencies are working on another 4,200 new regulations that will further handcuff American businesses. A better solution would be to reduce corporate taxes and burdensome regulation.  Add to this picture some $14.7 trillion in debt, and the outlook is dismal indeed.

It is past time to get serious about our economic problems, and we must address these issues at all levels of government. Tax, Borrow, and Spend policies are destroying this country, and raising taxes to repair bridges or construct school buildings that stand empty for years is not the answer. Yes, Mr. President, let's repair those bridges, but not in a way that further injures our ailing economy.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The 'Not a Tax Increase' Tax Increase

Last week, the Round Rock City Council unanimously voted to increase the property tax rate for the second year in a row.  Prior to the vote I had expressed my concerns about raising taxes in the current economy, but was stunned when one proponent replied, "Now Holly, you know it isn't actually a tax increase, it's just adopting the effective rate." 

What he meant by "adopting the effective rate," (or sometimes "balancing at the effective rate,") is that the city is adjusting the property tax rate so that they will have the same amount of revenue as the previous year.  According to the city, overall property values are down slightly, so if the rate remains the same, they would have less tax revenue.  Therefore they are raising the rate from 41.728 to 42.321.

This is obviously a war of semantics.  Yes, if a resident's property value falls, he/she would have a lower tax bill.   But what about all of those residents whose property value increased?  Many of us saw our property values jump dramatically this year, and both the County and the Round Rock School District have reported
overall property value increases.  It would be interesting to know in which price range Round Rock home valuations dropped and why.  But the bottom line is that the city readily admits that the tax bill for the average-valued home will increase in 2012.

Although my aforementioned friend assures me that my higher Round Rock property tax bill is not really a tax increase, I find it interesting that this 'adopting the effective rate' will result in more revenue for the city and allow them to increase spending.  The FY2011 budget was $134.7 million, but the FY2012 budget is $137 million.  The city's website says the increase is for street maintenance, but are less forthcoming about the raises they are giving city employees.

Despite the condescending assurances that 'adopting the effective rate' is not a tax increase, here is what the city was required to post on its official website:


"But Holly, but Holly, it's not really a tax increase."

Right.  "These aren't the droids you're looking for."

In the course of my aforementioned discussion the 'adopt the effective rate' proponent said to me, "I know this is all very confusing." 

Seriously?  I may look like a dumb blond, but I assure you I am not the least bit confused about the increase on my tax bill, nor am I confused about the fact that the city will have more revenue than last year and will increase city spending.  They can call it what they want, but the fact is that the City of Round Rock is increasing taxes to cover an increase in spending.  They can hope that the focus will remain on federal issues, but this local taxpayer is paying attention.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Ups and Downs of School District Taxes

With the new fiscal year beginning in October, Texas' 1,265 school districts typically adopt a budget and set tax rates in September.  Here is information on a few of Williamson County's 15 school districts. 

Round Rock ISD
Despite the sky-is-falling claims made earlier this year by the superintendent, Round Rock Independent School District has fared relatively well, financially speaking. In fact, many residents were surprised to learn that RRISD had amassed nearly $200 million in reserve funds, at least $31 million more than the district's goal.  In a surprise move at last week's meeting, right-leaning board members noted that property values had risen, and proposed reducing the RRISD property tax rate from $1.38 to $1.335. The three Left-leaning members, Chadwell, Cox, and Hannah, had come under fire last month for voting to give Superintendent Jesus Chavez yet another raise (they were defeated 4-3). This time they sided with the fiscal conservatives.

Not exactly a conservative himself, Superintendent Chavez was on KLBJ radio yesterday spinning the tax rate reduction as only a true liberal can. According to Chavez, the district was only able to reduce the rate because of the federal stimulus dollars, and the reduction will only be temporary. Despite the spin, voters can be pleased that the majority of the board has taken a balanced approach to budget and tax rates.

Leander ISD
Property owners in the Leander School District were not so fortunate. The LISD Board has been struggling to cope with some very poor past decisions; they face $1.2 billion in bond debt and Fitch has not only reduced their bond rating, but now lists the LISD outlook as 'negative'. Administration had identified prudent cuts in the ISD budget earlier this year, but backed down once they realized state cuts were not as dire as scare-mongers on the Left had predicted. Despite a barrage of feedback from the community, the LISD Board voted unanimously to increase the tax rate by $.0459 cents to $1.499 per $100 of valuation. 

Residents are hoping the current board will steer a more fiscally prudent course, but have been mystified by recent decisions.  Especially troubling is the LISD plan to spend $6 million on land for yet another new school. The district already has two brand-new schools that will stand empty for the second year in a row. Furthermore, the land in question is prime commercial land near Highway 183 and Cypress Creek Road. Co-opting such land for a school will deprive the district of furture commercial tax revenue.

Hutto ISD
The HISD Board is asking voters to approve a $.06 increase on the November ballot. The current total HISD rate is $1.60.

Georgetown ISD
The total tax rate was increased from $1.29 to $1.358 for the 2011-12 fiscal year.

Taylor ISD
Taylor ISD will reduce the property tax rate from $1.47 to $1.45, and carry a surplus of about $54,000. 

Williamson County and Senate District 5

Williamson County is a part of Texas Senate District 5, which has been represented by Steve Ogden since 1997.  Today, Senator Ogden announced that he will serve out his term, but will not run for re-election.

Both of Williamson County's State Representatives have been considered strong potential candidates, but this afternoon Rep Larry Gonzales (R-Round Rock) released a statement saying he will be running for re-election to House District 52. 

Dr. Charles Schwertner, who won a 4-way Primary to replace former Rep Dan Gattis, announced that he will seek the GOP nomination for the Senate seat.   Schwertner has already amassed $300,000 for his Senate run. 

Senate District 5 encompasses 10 counties, and many observers are speculating about additional candidates from the Bryan/Brazos County area.   

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tony Dale Launches Campaign With Community Support

Last Tuesday evening Cedar Park City Councilman Tony Dale kicked-off his campaign for Texas House District 149.  The event at El Patron's in Cedar Park was attended by approximately 200 members of the local community.  By the time Dale addressed the group, the crowd was overflowing out into the dining area, where attendees were straining to hear the speeches from Dale and other community leaders. 

What is particularly remarkable about this event, was that the campaign effort had only been in existence for 6 days.  In fact, campaign signs were not delivered until after the event began, and many supporters had brought their own hand-made signs expressing support for Dale's candidacy.   The crowd was pretty animated and responsive to Tony Dale's rousing campaign speech, and one attendee remarked to me that he had not heard such a great "conservative speech since Ronald Reagan." 

Those in attendance included County Commissioners Cynthia Long and Lisa Birkman, both of whom spoke on Tony Dale's behalf.  Texas HD 149 includes portions of both Long and Birkman's respective County precincts, and support from these two leaders is essential.   Others present included State Representative Larry Gonzales, Williamson County Attorney Jana Duty, Cedar Park City Councilmen Matt Powell, Don Tracy, and Mitch Fuller, elected leaders from the City of Leander and Brushy Creek MUD, County Constable Robert Chody, members of both the Leander and Round Rock School Boards, and many, many others.  In fact, just about everyone previously mentioned as a potential candidate for the HD 149 seat, was on hand to help launch the campaign.

Councilman Tony Dale is well-known in the community, having resided in Williamson County for over a decade.  Prior to serving on the Cedar Park City Council, Dale had served on several local boards regarding planning & zoning and transportation, and last year was appointed by State Senator Florence Shapiro to a task force to ban 'designer' drugs K-2 and 'spice.'  In 2009 the Railroad Commission of Texas appointed Tony to the board of the Alternative Fuels Research Education Division.  He was a delegate on the VI Texas Trade Mission to Mexico sponsored by the Office of the Texas Governor in 2005.  In 2004 he was a member of the State Textbook Review Panel for the Texas Education Agency.

Along with his wife Mary and their two daughters, Dale's parents were on hand.  Like his father and grandfather, Tony Dale is a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces.  (and a decorated former Army Captain.)  Mary Lopez Dale was also a former Army Captain. 

In the 2012 Republican Primary, Tony Dale will face Corbin Van Arsdale, a lobbyist who has been leasing a house in Cedar Park since last Spring and who first registered to vote in Williamson County June 30 of 2011.  Van Arsdale announced his campaign with a press release and had listed a few local supporters, but when Tony Dale announced, Williamson County Constable Rick Coffman immediately removed his name from the Van Arsdale campaign. 

Update:  Corbin Van Arsdale sent his supporters an email last Friday, September 16, saying he would withdraw.  He made the official announcment Monday, September 19.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Round Rock ISD's Fairness Doctrine

Some of those who adhere to socialism do so out of a sincere, if somewhat naive desire to make life 'fair.'  Despite the good intentions, however, socialism as practically applied rarely results in Utopia.  In the broader scheme, socialism concentrates an inordinate amount of power in the hands of bureaucrats and degrades standards of living for most citizens.  In the daily details, socialist policy often results in logical absurdity. 

Take the case of an ongoing controversy in the Round Rock Independent School District. Back in 2008, the ISD approved a plan to construct new athletic buildings on the Round Rock High School campus. The buildings were completed and opened this year, and students have been enjoying them since the school year began. With a growing student population, RRHS faculty were enthusiastic about the additional space and planned accordingly. The RRHS Booster club even raised private money to update the older facilities and improve the media room for the school's use.  However in August, RRISD Superintendent Jesus Chavez informed school administrators that they could not use the old buildings, including the media room.
Why did Superintendent Chavez prohibit use of the old buildings? Were they unsafe? No, and actually the district plans to rent them out on the weekends. Did budget cuts affect the school's ability to maintain them? No. Allegedly, what Chavez told administrators is that Round Rock High School could not use the buildings because the other High Schools in the District each have only two buildings to use and it wouldn't be fair.
I do not know what prompted the construction of the two new buildings. If the older buildings are perfectly acceptable, one might question the wisdom in constructing new buildings, however, at some point the decision was made to add two new buildings. Documents from the original master plan, make no mention of closing or demolishing the older buildings, and it seems obvious the new construction was considered by faculty to be an addition.

Now, RRHS has two buildings on campus that are closed to their usage because it wouldn't be fair to students at say, Westwood High School? This seems a rather odd policy and the implications are disturbing. Cedar Ridge High School has it's own coffee bar (yes, for the students.) Round Rock HS does not. Shouldn't we close the coffee bar?  Is the plan to make each campus identical to every other campus?

This order from the Superintendent defies logic and the implications are deeply troubling.  Should we adress injustice in our society?  Absolutely.  However, the theology of 'fairness,' often interpreted to mean 'sameness,' is unworkable and illogical.  Understandably, parents of RRHS students are very upset and have asked the School Board to address this issue.  The topic will be on the agenda for tomorrow night's board meeting, and those concerned are encouraged to attend.   

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Texas House District 149 Update: Updated Update

While a handful of Williamson County residents are already publicly endorsing candidates, I think this is a good time to point out that the filing period for the 2012 Primary Election is a few months away, and we still don't know which candidates will actually file to run. 

In the newly created Texas House District 149, former State Representative Corbin Van Arsdale, who recently moved to Williamson County, is the only candidate who has announced.  However, according to long-time residents of Western Williamson County, there are at least three strong candidates with deep roots in the community who may file to run for the new Texas House District 149 seat.  One of these in particular has been described as a 'game changer.'

Despite his 2008 Primary loss to Republican Allen Fletcher, Van Arsdale has indicated he would very much like to return to the State Legislature.   He has been meeting with many local leaders and trying to learn about the community.  Prior to purchasing his home in Cedar Park last April,  Van Arsdale resided in West Austin, and has remained involved in government issues as a lobbyist.  He seems capable enough, but residents are still learning about him, and many are waiting to see if one of their own will enter this race.

At this point, I would say any endorsements are premature.

Update:  The cat is out of the bag as they say:  Cedar Park City Councilman Tony Dale is announcing this Tuesday.  Details here. 

Update:  Corbin Van Arsdale sent an email to his supporters last Friday, September 16, and Monday, September 19, he announced he is withdrawing from the race.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Help Victims of Central Texas Wildfires

Michele Samuelson at Blue Dot Blues has been compiling a list of the various relief efforts.  Many families have lost everything this week, and our professional and volunteer firefighters need your support.  Please check Michele's list to see if you can help, and please continue to pray for all those involved. 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sadly Obligatory Post on Anonymous Activism

As distasteful as it is, I find myself obligated to write about an anonymous package I received in the mail on August 27.  The packet contained negative political stories about Ted Pataki, who was considering running for the new Texas House District 149 seat, and about Governor George Pataki, who, to my knowledge, was never considering running for the Texas House District 149 seat. 

Just to clarify, the package was anonymous.  'Anonymous' in this grammatical construct means the author/sender did not identify himself or herself.  In other words, the package had no return address, no signature, and no other identifying details other than the postmark (mailed from Austin.)  No one has confessed, and I do not know who sent it.

Naturally, I have shared the above details with my fellow activists in Williamson County, and, in accordance with human nature, these folks have 1) expressed shock and disgust at such Byzantine tactics, and 2) speculated as to who would have motivation to do such a thing.  

It seems some supporters of another candidate are very upset with me for discussing the anonymous packet with others, since it has led to much speculation.  I had no intention of writing about this matter, but now I am being harassed for discussing the anonymous packet and have even received thinly veiled threats about legal action.  Therefore I am posting the facts of the matter here and stating once again that I do not know who sent the packet.   

Monday, September 5, 2011

Central Texas Fires: Updated

This post has been updated to include revised numbers for the Texas wildfire response budget. 

For those looking for information on the Central Texas fires, Lisa Birkman at the Williamson County Conservative Examiner just posted information on fire damage in Wilco, and Michele Samuelson at Blue Dot Blues has great information on the widespread impact, as well as important resources for assistance. 

If you have not already done so, consider registering your cell phone with the Capital Area Council of Governments so that you will receive phone notification if your area is threatened.  Unfortunately, the registration won't take effect immediately, but it could save your life in a future crisis. 

Finally, while some are claiming eeeevillll Republicans cut the Texas wildfire response budget, Lawrence Person has the facts at his BattleSwarm Blog.  Apparently, Governor Perry and the state legislature actually increased the allocation by about 80%,  from $109 million in 2010-11 to $196.2 million in 2012-13.

Please be safe and keep praying for those in danger. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

Race and Politics

Does race continue to be a factor in politics?  I don't think anyone can deny race played a part in the 2008 Presidential Election, and many believe it was a factor in certain Primary contests in Texas.  I know several Republicans who voted for Barack Obama simply because they wanted to cast an historic vote for the 'first black president,' (and now regret it,) and on the other side of the coin, I suspect race perceptions may have played a part in Railroad Commissioner Victor Carillo's loss.

While the Republican Party has suffered from a negative perception regarding race, historically the GOP has been one of equal opportunity.  Of course Abraham Lincoln was the first Republican president, and many 'first' black officeholders ran on the GOP ticket.  As a Republican, Teddy Roosevelt assisted former slave John Lynch in winning a race to become chair of the Republican National Convention in 1884.  Even in recent decades, black Republicans have been largely ignored by the media and the Democrat party's narrative. 

So, what impact will racial politics have on the 2012 election cycle?  Award-winning journalist Tara Wall will tackle this issue at an upcoming luncheon in Round Rock next week. Ms. Wall received two awards from the National Association of Black Journalists for producing documentaries on race and America.  Incidentally, she was also the last reporter to interview President George W. Bush before he left the White House.  Wall has also served as the Deputy Editorial Page Editor, columnist, and Political Analyst for the Washington Times. 

Here is the release from the Williamson County Republican Women.
(Disclosure:  I serve as the Legislative Committee Chair for the WCRW)

Political commentator Tara Wall will be speaking on 'Race and Politics' on Wednesday September 7, 2011, at the Williamson Conference Center in Round Rock, Texas.  Meet and Greet begins at 11:00 AM, Luncheon and Program at 11:30AM.  Hosted by the Williamson County Republican Women, cost is $15 per person; please rsvp online at, via email to, or by calling Donna Parker at (512) 388-8823.
Qualified media are welcome to attend. 

Tara Wall has served as the Deputy Editorial Page Editor, columnist, and Political Analyst for the Washington Times.  An award-winning journalist, she has received two awards from the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) for her documentaries on race in America.  Ms. Wall has appeared on CNN, MSNBC, ABC and Fox News, and is the founder Princess Tara Productions. 

Founded in 1977, the Williamson County Republican Women's Organization consists of Conservative-minded women and men, and works to promote an informed electorate, elect Republican candidates, and "impact Local, State, and National Politics." In addition, the club provides scholarships to young women of the county, and through an active Literacy Project, donates dictionaries to area third-graders and books to local libraries.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Leander ISD's Negative Outlook

While Americans have become much more cognizant of government debt at the national level, they are less aware of government debt problems at the local level.  In some areas these debt loads are beginning to inflict further pain on communities already struggling in the 'Obama' economy.

Earlier this year I wrote about what I referred to as a looming crisis for the Leander Independent School District, and more recently Owen Stroud published an excellent analysis, "Leander ISD:  In the Shadow of Debt."  The bottom line is that district leadership and the paltry few who vote in ISD elections took on over $1.2 billion in bond debt, resulting in debt service costs of $56,828,366 last year and one of the highest ISD property tax rates in the area. 

While our concerns about LISD finances have been dismissed by some board members and district apologists, conservative journalists are not the only ones alarmed by these trends.  As reported by Business Wire earlier this summer, the Fitch Bond Rating service downgraded LISD's Rating Outlook to 'Negative.'

Fitch considers the district's debt levels very high. Overall debt levels approximate 13% of market value and $15,600 per capita, which are well above average for the current rating category. In addition, amortization is slow, reflecting in part the use of capital appreciation bonds (CABs) to minimize tax rate impacts and shift the debt burden to future taxpayers. Approximately 38% of the district's direct debt is retired in 10 years on a non-accreted basis. Annual debt service represented almost 21% of general government spending in fiscal 2010, and annual payments as currently scheduled increase by 18% by fiscal 2013 and by 37% by fiscal 2015
The current LISD Board seems to be struggling to cope with the financial mess, and tax hikes are definitely in the works.  New board member Aaron Johnson has proposed some plans to restructure debt, which may help slightly, but as Stroud notes in his article,  the "previous reckless decisions will continue to haunt" for years to come. 

One possible action on the part of LISD Board is cause for concern.  It seems the LISD is considering purchasing additional property to build another middle school.  This is not likely to go down well with taxpayers, since the district already has two brand-new school buildings sitting empty for a second year.  There will be a Special/Joint meeting with the City of Cedar Park on August 30.  (Such meetings are relatively routine, as there must be cooperation between the two entities regarding new construction.)  It will be interesting to see whether the ISD really has purchase plans in the works. 

The district will rebuff criticism of any new purchases since the funds likely come from previously issued bonds, and they will say they are planning ahead for future growth.  However, in light of the current challenges faced by LISD, spending millions on new land and construction hardly seems prudent.  And while districts separate budgets for M&O (Maintenance and Operation) and I&S (Interest and Sinking funds,) at the end of the day all of these funds, including debt service, will come from taxpayer pocketbooks.

Hopefully the elected LISD leadership has realized they simply cannot continue 'business as usual.'  If they do not change these patterns, the outlook will be worse than 'negative.'  It could be disastrous for residents and the local economy. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Major Donor to Wilco Democrat Arrested

It seems one of the major donors to Williamson County Democrats was arrested this week.  Marc Rosenthal is an Austin attorney who took a keen interest in promoting Democrat candidates, especially one in Williamson County.  According to the Texas Ethics Commission, Rosenthal gave former State Representative Diana Maldonado (HD52) $51,000 in contributions, as well as another $7,000 in "Air Travel" donations.  Back in 2008, local observers had noticed that Maldonado seemed to spend an unusual amount of time traveling around the state on Rosenthal's private jet.

According to news reports, Rosenthal was arrested on "federal racketeering charges alleging bribery of an already-convicted judge as well as witnesses in state and federal cases."  Rosenthal seems to be tied to the scandal with former state district Judge Abel C. Limas, who pled guilty to racketeering charges last March.

Representative Maldonado was certainly not the only recipient of Rosenthal's money.  He gave to various other Democrat candidates, County Democrat parties, and the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, but those donations run between only  $150 and $5,000.  Clearly, at $58,000, Ms. Maldonado was his hands-down favorite. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Two New GOP Candidates to Run for Williamson County Attorney

Two Williamson County men have announced their intention to run for County Attorney in the Republican Primary next year.  They will face incumbent Jana Duty, who has been much in the news locally.  Duty's former Assistant CA, Hal Hawes, who is now legal advisor to the County Commissioners Court, sent out a press release last week.   Rick Kennon, a Family Law attorney and former Assistant Travis County Attorney and Assistant Attorney General,  has announced at various GOP meetings that he plans to file as well. 

In light of all the difficulties between incumbent Duty and the other elected officials in the county, this is likely to be a very unpleasant Primary battle.

Below is the release from the Hal Hawes campaign.

Hawes Announces

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Truth About Texas

Whew, since the Governor of the economically strongest state in the nation (that's Texas, folks,) announced his candidacy for President, the big government guys have been trying to deconstruct the Lone Star success story.  Happily, Kevin Williamson of National Review has a great rebuttal to Paul Krugman's false claims about employment and wages in Texas. 

Houston, like Brooklyn and Boston, is a mixed bag: wealthy enclaves, immigrant communities rich and poor, students, government workers — your usual big urban confluence. In Harris County, the median household income is $50,577. In Brooklyn, it is $42,932, and in Suffolk County (which includes Boston and some nearby communities) it was $53,751. So, Boston has a median household income about 6 percent higher than Houston’s, while Brooklyn’s is about 15 percent lower than Houston’s.

Brooklyn is not the poorest part of New York, by a long shot (the Bronx is), and, looking at those income numbers above, you may think of something Professor Krugman mentions but does not really take properly into account: New York and Boston have a significantly higher cost of living than does Houston, or the rest of Texas. Even though Houston has a higher median income than does Brooklyn, and nearly equals that of Boston, comparing money wages does not tell us anything like the whole story: $50,000 a year in Houston is a very different thing from $50,000 a year in Boston or Brooklyn.

Read the rest of Williamson's article here.  (Link should work now-sorry 'bout that.)