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