Monday, April 25, 2011

Will The Real Diane Cox Please Stand Up?

At one of last week's forums for the Round Rock Independent School District Board, candidates were asked about raising district property taxes without voter approval.  According to the Round Rock Leader, Diane Cox replied, "If we do raise taxes even by that small of an amount we need to get voter approval." 

What the Leader story did not deign to mention is the fact that Diane Cox serves as President of the Central Texas School Board Association, and that CTSBA is actively lobbying to change State law to allow school districts to raise property taxes without voter approval.  Not only is Ms. Cox the President of this organization, but on August 19 of 2010, she presented to the RRISD Board an agenda item* that includes the following:
Additional Golden Pennies: The current finance system requires school districts to seek voter approval in setting the maintenance and operation tax rate above $1.04. Legislation is needed which grants school boards the discretion of two additional golden pennies without voter approval."
Interestingly enough, the CTSBA brochure outlining their 2011 legislative agenda (which includes the above item,) states "Publication design by RRISD."  Sounds like the RRISD and the CTSBA have been working very, very closely.

While the Round Rock Leader has chosen to ignore this information, the Community Impact Newspaper's report includes the following:
In previous years, the Central Texas School Board Association, which Cox is president of, has lobbied at the Texas Capitol for a measure that would allow school boards to raise taxes without voters' consent. Cox said that she is not lobbying for such a measure this year, but noted, “There is a fundamental issue with the whole [education finance] system."

Of course, Diane Cox' desire for the power to raise taxes without voter approval is no secret to political activists in Williamson County.  Last Fall at a candidate forum for Texas House District 52 candidates, Ms. Cox asked Larry Gonzales and Diana Maldonado if they would support raising the tax cap without voter approval.  According to witnesses, Cox became so upset with the resulting conversation that she stomped out of the building. 

Challenger David Dziadziola has been adamant about keeping voters involved in the process of setting tax rates.  Matt Stillwell, who is challenging Brian Sellers, gave an interesting answer when asked if he favored allowing tax increases without voter approval, "In extreme circumstances, it would be a good thing to have in the toolbox, but as a general rule, it should be put to a vote."   Well, alrighty then.

Perhaps Diane Cox has had a change of heart about this important policy issue.  If so, she should resign as CTSBA President and repudiate its legislative agenda.  If not, it doesn't seem she is being entirely genuine about her stance on the issue. 

*See pages 43-44

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Round Rock ISD's Curious Priorities

"Curiouser and curiouser..."

Last week the Round Rock Independent School District posted budget recommendations listed in order of priority.   Some parents have expressed concern over the listed priorities and have contacted elected school board members.  Unfortunately, it seems that most of RRISD Board members were caught off guard by the queries since they only became aware of the list when contacted by concerned parents, and apparently had no input in setting the priorities.

Some of the priorities for reinstatement are rather curious.  Reinstatement of hall monitors at various levels are ranked #6 and #17, and of cafeteria monitors at #23, but Dyslexia Teachers are #36 and Talented and Gifted (TAG) Teachers are #47.  Both sets of teachers rank below stipends for PE Coaches, but at least they rank higher than the Superintendent's Leadership Retreat.    Parents of TAG students are noting the district will now barely service these mandated programs, while funding other areas far beyond mandated guidelines.  Alternative programs are mandated for at least four hours each day, but RRISD will fund nearly 12 hours of such programs.   The concerned parents were unsure if there were cuts to the on-site day care provided at the High Schools or the special school for students who are failing. 

I do not know how the decision-making process works at Round Rock ISD, but it does seem odd that our elected board members were not a part of setting the priorities.   From my vantage point, it seems the voters hired (via the electoral process) board members to govern the school district.  That Board then hires an administrator to run the district.  Certainly the board cannot micro-manage day-to-day operations, but something as significant as setting spending priorities should have had board involvement.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dziadziola, Sellers for Round Rock Independent School Board

There are two contested races for Round Rock School Board this year, Place 1 and Place 3. The Place 1 incumbent is Brian Sellers, a Republican voter who supported Larry Gonzales for the Texas House of Representatives last year. His opponent is newcomer Matt Stillwell, who proclaims to be a political Independent, but has only voted in the Democrat Primary in Williamson County. 

I am endorsing Brian Sellers for Place 1, and David Dziadziola for Place 3.
David Dziadziola is challenging incumbent Diane Cox for Place 3.  I have met Mr. Dziadziola on several occasions, and found him to be quite knowledgeable about the district and its challenges.  A life insurance agent, he has also been involved with the financial organization of several successful start-up companies, and has extensive knowledge and experience with financial management.  (On a side note, Dziadziola has been granted numerous U.S. Government patents for computer protection programs.)  Comforting to those who fear a 'numbers cruncher,' his two children are students at Round Rock schools, so he has a vested interest in making sure the district offers a quality education.  Mr. Dziadziola is not content to look only at short-term fixes, but anxious to make sure RRISD has plans for long-term fiscal solvency.  Intelligent, knowledgeable, and conservative, he's also just one of those down-to-earth-non-politicians one can't help but like. 

Diane Cox is pretty familiar to voters since she was the only person from Williamson County willing to appear in liberal-Democrat Diana Maldonado's television commercials in 2010. (Maldonado was soundly defeated by Republican Larry Gonzales.)  Ms. Cox is also the President of Central Texas School Board Association. Round Rock Independent School District and other area districts pay annual dues to the Central Texas School Board Association.  The association engages in  lobbying efforts, and according to CTSBA literature, supports allowing school districts to raise property taxes without voter approval.   (I have not yet discovered the amounts RRISD pays to the association.)  Allegedly, Ms. Cox initiated the illegal bonus paid to the RRISD Superintendent last year, as well as the Superintendent's contract extension with salary and benefits totaling more than $300,000. 

There are several upcoming opportunities to meet the school board candidates; here are the candidate forums of which I am aware:

Tuesday, April 19, at 7pm, at Grace Lutheran Church
Wednesday, April 20, at 7 pm at Round Rock High School Lecture Hall
Tuesday, April 26, at 7 pm at Westwood High School Library

There is a great deal of momentum behind David Dziadziola, but with the dismal turnout typical of school board elections, every bit of help and every vote will make a difference.  Two Round Rock women, Donna Parker and Maria Garza Brown are holding a fundraising reception for Mr. Dziadziola on Thursday April 21.  For more information and to RSVP, please visit

Early Voting is May 2-May 10, and Election Day is Saturday May 14.

Rep Gonzales Working on House Districts for Williamson County

As KXAN news reported last night, State Representative Larry Gonzales has been working "feverishly" to create a redistricting plan that would best represent the communities of Williamson County. 

Many of us have been concerned since the unveiling of the initial plan from the House Committee on Redistricting last week.  Williamson County would include three House Districts, but those districts would split up communities with common interests.  In some map proposals, the City of Round Rock would be separated from the Round Rock Higher Education Center, the Dell Computers Campus, and the Dell Baseball stadium, all projects initiated by Round Rock residents. 

In addition to Rep. Gonzales, many others expressed concern about the maps involving Wilco.  Milam County Judge Dave Barkemeyer testified that his county would like to continue to be a part of House District 20, which includes Georgetown.  He indicated that the interests of Milam are better aligned with north Williamson County.  Rep. Hildebran indicated that Burnet County residents prefer to be grouped with other Hill Country counties rather than the more urban southern Williamson County. 

You can help Representative Gonzales by sending him an email of support at .  The more letters he has from the community, the stronger his case will be. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Texas House to Hold Hearings on Redistricting

The Williamson County Republican Women sent out the following notice:

The Texas House Redistricting Committee will hold hearings regarding proposed districts on Friday, April 15, at noon, and Sunday April 17, at 2pm. Hearings will be in room E1.030 at the Capitol, and Chairman Solomons has said anyone may testify and this will be the only opportunity for the public to weigh in.

While the Williamson County Republican Women are NOT taking a stance on the proposed maps, we believe it important for the community to be aware of the possible changes and the limited opportunity to provide feedback to state lawmakers.

The redistricting proposal will have great impact on Williamson County; Texas House districts 20 and 52 will be entirely contained within the county, but a new district, HD 149 will include parts of Burnet, Travis, Williamson and Milam Counties. Forest Creek will be split between HD 20 and HD 149 along Forest Ridge Drive. Stony Point High School in Round Rock will be in HD 20, and Georgetown High School will be in HD 52. All of Wilco's cities and towns seem to be slated to be split up.

The Proposed maps may be viewed here. :


Fun With Redistricting: Updated

The Texas House Redistricting Committee has posted proposed new maps on-line for all to view, and there are many raised eyebrows on both sides of the aisle.

Not surprisingly, Williamson County is drawn to include three districts: District 20, District 52, and a new District 149. While 20 and 52, represented by Republicans Charles Schwertner and Larry Gonzales respectively, are entirely contained within Wilco, the new district 149 is, well, interesting, to say the least. Looking like the two-headed creature from Lake LBJ, the proposed HD 149 would include parts of Burnet, Travis, and Williamson counties, and all of Milam County. About 60% of the District 149 population would be in Wilco.

These districts look very 'Republican,' for now. Some Republicans are concerned about what the future would hold some of these, including HD 149.  Stay tuned; I have no doubt there will be fun times ahead.

Here is the link to view the proposed maps:

Update: More 'Fun' Notes on the proposed map: Forest Creek development will be split  between House District 52 and the new House District 149 along Forest Creek Drive and Hilton Head Drive.  Georgetown High School will land in District 52, while Round Rock's Stony Point High School will land in District 20.  District 20 will dip down further into Round Rock to Highway 79 in places, and will claim the Round Rock higher education area and Terra Vista.  It's looking like most of the towns and cities in Wilco will be split in various ways.

Also, I am being told the Democrats are positively thrilled with the Travis County map since it kills all chances of ever beating Democrats Donna Howard or Mark Strama.  It seems the strongest GOP precincts were moved to HD 47, represented by Republican Paul Workman, and HD 26, represented by Democrat Dawnna Dukes.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Aaron Johnson For Leander ISD Board Place 6: Updated

Yesterday I had a chance to visit with Aaron Johnson, one of the five candidates for Leander Independent School District Board. My fellow Conservatives in West Wilco had recommended him, and after our meeting, I can see why.

A businessman (in sales and marketing) and father of four, Johnson is very familiar with the significant challenges the district faces. In fact, this isn't his first rodeo; he ran for a seat on the board previously. It's too bad he wasn't successful in 2006, since I think his input would have helped prevent LISD from digging the financial hole in which it currently sits.

As a parent, Johnson is very concerned about academic standards. His own children are enrolled in LISD schools, and he is interested in making sure they and their peers receive a quality education. Not satisfied with the term 'college ready,' Johnson wants to ensure graduating seniors are not just prepared, but encouraged to attend college, and does not think it the purview of the administration to decide which students are college bound.  He recognizes that to some extent school board control is limited by State and Federal requirements, but has a very good working knowledge of what can be done at the local level.

Although adamant about high academic standards, Johnson is fiscally conservative and recognizes that merely throwing money at our education problems is not the answer. He is concerned about spending and borrowing levels as well as resident tax burdens, and wants to focus more spending on the classroom. The ISD will need much wisdom and financial guidance going forward; with $1.2 billion in district bond debt and two brand new school buildings that must stand empty next year, Johnson's background in economics and law should come in handy.

Originally, six candidates had filed for Leander ISD Place 6, but Clarence Ramsey Brown dropped out and endorsed Aaron Johnson. Both Brown and Johnson are known Republicans. The current Place 6 Board member, Jim Sneeringer, has also endorsed Johnson.

The other candidates include Nacole Thompson, whom I met the last time she ran for the LISD board; very nice lady, but definitely a Democrat.  Gene Fruge lives in Austin, and in a previous run for LISD Board mystified voters with his campaign platform that seemed to consist entirely of a plan to build a theater in his area of the district.  Kyle Ward is the Texas PTA representative who wrote an op-ed claiming education is on life support, and seems to agree with left-leaning school associations asserting there is no waste anywhere in school districts and therefore if budgets are reduced, they can do none other than fire teachers.  (Please pay no attention to those new football stadiums and empty buildings).  There has also been some noise about Ward's wife having been hired by the district just this year, which would violate rules for candidate eligibility.  James Spires' platform is vague on budget issues, and he does not have any children in LISD schools.  Spires' website indicates that he is among the 'spare-no-expense-for-the-children' mantra.   

I found Aaron Johnson to be a very knowledgeable Republican, with both a vested interest in the success of the school district and concern for keeping residents' tax burden low. Interestingly, Round Rock ISD Board candidate David Dziadziola also has a background in economics, children in the district, and very similar stances on the issues. Happily for David, he has only one opponent, known liberal-Democrat Diane Cox.  Both men are ideal additions to these respective boards, and I heartily endorse them.

Update:  I have received numerous emails and comments regarding James Spires, one of which defends him and states he does oppose tax increases.  To be fair, school board candidates are notoriously vague with campaign language, and this race doesn't look much different.  Therefore we have to dig deeper to find out where these candidates stand.  While one person has been willing to defend Spires, all other emails have been very critical of Mr. Spires.  According to attendees of an area Young Republicans meeting last month, Mr. Spires stated that the district was doing a great job and he "would not change a thing."  When asked for clarification, he repeated that there was "nothing" he would change.  Other Republican activists reported to me that on questioning, Mr. Spires would only say he wants to "Make Education a Priority," and was unwilling to state his position on tax increases. 

Also of note:  A document distributed at an LISD Budget workshop on January 26, 2011, (pages 9 & 10) indicated that the district has been floating a tax rate increase trial balloon.  According to this document, the original thought was to hold a tax-increase election in June.  The document predicts revenue collections based on 1 cent, 6 cent, and 13 cent increases.  Educrats love to refer to these as "Copper Pennies" or "Golden Pennies," depending on how they approve them (sounds really cute, doesn't it?)  but these are tax increases on Leander ISD families.

Pages From LISD Jan 2011 Budget Workshop 0001

Monday, April 11, 2011

Congressman John Carter Rejects Paycheck

In the midst of last week's Federal budget fight, Republicans attempted to pass a measure that would have banned all Members of Congress and the President from being paid during any government shutdown. H.R. 1255 passed the House but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) blocked a vote on the bill in the Senate. Congressman John Carter, who represents all of Williamson County, voted for the measure and requested his own paycheck be withheld for the duration of any shutdown. The shutdown was averted, of course, but kudos to Congressman Carter for his stance.

It's too bad that some other government employees, such as our Round Rock School Superintendent who earned $129,000 more than members of Congress last year, aren't willing to make any sacrifices in this troubled economy.  

Carter should also be commended for fighting for the Ensuring Pay of our Military Act of 2011, which would continue pay for members of our military in the event of any shutdown.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Media Matters Doesn't Like Christians or Something

It seems that I have annoyed Media Matters with my posts about Planned Parenthood and the fact that none of their Texas clinics have mammogram machines. So last week they decided to reveal a secret about me. Are you ready? I am "a self-proclaimed Christian, Conservative, Republican Grassroots Activist." I know my readers will be shocked to learn this, but I do hope some of them will stick around.

Apparently in the George-Soros-Media-Matters alternate universe, these attributes automatically disqualify me as a pundit and credible source.  What MM does not acknowledge is that according to open records from the Department of State Health Services, Planned Parenthood is not able to provide important screenings for breast cancer because they do not own the necessary equipment.  Furthermore, while the government and charities are providing funds for 'women's health care,' to Planned Parenthood, women who need a doctor for anything other than an abortion will have to be sent elsewhere. 

But since I am a "Christian, Conservative, Republican Grassroots Activist," pay no mind. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Obamacare, Texas, and Lessons From 2003

On Wednesday, April 6, the Honorable Arlene Wohlgemuth will speak at a luncheon in Round Rock. Executive Director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation and director of the Foundation's Center for Health Care Policy, she served 10 years as a state representative for district 58, and in 2003 helped navigate Texas through a $10 billion budget shortfall.

As an astute policy analyst, Wohlgemuth has been closely monitoring the federal take-over of our healthcare system and advising Texas lawmakers on how the State will be impacted by Obamacare.   She notes that even without the new federal laws, state spending on Medicaid will double every decade.  With Obamacare, Texas would have to spend nearly half of its budget on Medicaid.  While she supports efforts to repeal, Wohlgemuth has also outlined plans for the state to cope with Obamacare, and recently joined Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and State Representative Lois Kolkhorst in a call for Medicaid reforms.

Sponsored by the Williamson County Republican Women, the event is open to the general public, cost is $15 and includes a catered lunch.  Meet and Greet begins at 11:15am, and the program begins at 11:30am.  RSVP to