Friday, April 27, 2012

Reach of the Week: It's Terri Romere's Fault That My Business is Declining

There were a lot of wild accusations made against Terri Romere during the Kangaroo Court proceedings at the Round Rock School Board hearing earlier this week.  Not only are five of the trustees upset that Romere dissents from board decisions, and they are physically intimidated by her 5 foot, 2 inch stature, but apparently Trustee Brian Sellers also blames her for his business problems. 

Sellers alleged that they needed to censure Romere because:
I've received threats of people claiming that they will not visit establishments that I am a part of,  businesses.(sic)
Huh?  So, it's Terri Romere's fault that people don't want to visit his business?

Maybe it does have something to do with the fact that his 'fine establishment' is awfully close to the Wells Branch neighborhood he and four other board members ignored during the re-zoning fiasco this year.  It's also just two miles away from the over-crowded, academically unacceptable Cedar Ridge High School.  Or maybe voters are upset that he voted to up the Superintendent's salary to $260,000 plus benefits.

Or maybe Mr. Sellers is just looking for someone to blame for his own business issues. 

Next thing you know, we'll be hearing that Terri Romere was seen dancing with the devil under a full moon and casting a spell on Glenn Colby's cat. 

This is a pretty far-fetched reason to censure Trustee Romere, and that's why it qualifies for the 'Reach of the Week.'

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

GOP Primary Notes: Third Court of Appeals

Williamson County Republican voters have an abundance of candidates on the ballot this year, one of which is the race for the Third Court of Appeals, a district that includes 24 counties. 

The candidates are Scott Field and Madeleine Connor.  Interesting thing about Connor is that in 2008 she ran district judge in Travis County as a Democrat.  She had run as a Republican in 2006, and then ran for Justice of the Peace in 2010.  All attempts have been unsuccessful. 

Field ran for the Third Court of Appeals in 2010, as a Republican, and garnered 47% of the vote. 

Scott is certainly the more experienced attorney, and at all levels of the state and federal judicial system.  He started his legal career as a clerk on the Texas Supreme Court, then went on to the international law firm of Baker Botts LLP, where he was named associate of the year, before being elected managing partner of another firm in Austin. He now leads The Field Law Firm, PLLC, where he serves as managing member.  He is a life-long Republican with a strong conservative judicial philosophy

Connor has not been practicing as long, and just barely qualifies for candidacy.  Her experience is much more limited than Field's.  As a Conservative, it's also just really, really difficult to support someone who ran as a Democrat as recently as 2008, and during Obamamania to boot. 

The seat is currently held by liberal Democrat Justice Diane Henson.  Henson will have the full backing of the liberal machine behind her, so we do need a strong candidate with the experience and conservative judicial philosophy we need in Texas courts. 

I think Scott Field is the right choice for Republicans. 

Round Rock School Board's Kangaroo Court: Constitutional Principles Not Relevant

Last night the Round Rock Independent School District voted to censure elected Trustee Terri Romere.  Romere could not be present, as her critically ill mother had been scheduled to move from one hospital to another late yesterday.  Trustee Bobby Seiferman abstained from the vote.

One of the legal principles on which this nation was founded is the right to face one's accuser.  According to the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution, the accused has the right: be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.
As Romere's attorney Ross Fischer noted in a letter to the district yesterday, she was not advised of the charges against her.  As last night's kangaroo court demonstrates, her accusers were permitted to make all sorts of wild accusations, and five board members eagerly jumped at the opportunity to convict without benefit of trial or counsel.  Granted this is not a criminal court, but the damage done to Ms. Romere without due process is shocking.

Some of the accusations were positively Orwellian, such as the claim that Romere did not listen to the needs of the community.  Back during the re-zoning controversy, parents of affected communities came out en force to demonstrate that Romere was the ONLY trustee who seemed to care about their plight.  But the most insidious, reprehensible charge, which came from Diane Cox, is that Romere is somehow "physically intimidating."  (Romere is about 5' 2")  There are no witnesses to what Cox claims, so it's her word against Romere's. 

That the Board would take action based on such a serious claim without proper procedure is an outrage, but apparently this Board believes it can do whatever it wishes. And maybe that's the root problem here.  Perhaps school district governance has too much power.  After all, parents and taxpayers are at the mercy of these people whether they like it or not.  Even parents who find it necessary to opt out must continue to surrender precious education dollars to the district to spend as Jesus Chavez sees fit.  And as for elections, Round Rock ISD is huge and trustees are elected at large, so communities that are suffering because of board decisions are easily over-ruled by communities that have been favored. 

Elections are coming in November, and I hope the community is paying attention to the antics of these board members.  But I don't hold out much hope because of the way the district has been structured.  This problem will continue until we find a way to check the power of local school districts. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

School Superintendent Planning Censure for Trustee Who Voted Against His Raise Update: Worse Than We Thought


Apparently the Round Rock ISD Administration is not happy with elected Board of Trustees member Terri Romere.  Last Thursday, Romere was the only trustee to vote against the $8,000 raise and contract extension for Superintendent Jesus Chavez.  Although RRISD Board meetings are typically on the third Thursday of the month, they've called a meeting for tonight, Tuesday April 24, at 6:00 P.M.  In the posted agenda, the Superintendent calls for a Closed Session to discuss "censure" of the Place 4 member.

Ross Fischer, attorney for Romere, has formally requested that proceedings take place in an Open, rather than Closed session.  This is appropriate since Romere has been an advocate for district transparency.

Even more interesting is Fischer's final paragraph:
Additionally, please know that the ISD has not formally notified our client of the basis for tonight's contemplated discipline.  Unfortunately, this appears to be standard protocol for the ISD.  In order to properly advise our client, we are requesting any information that constitutes the basis for tonight's discussion. 
Don't hold your breath, Ross.

So, as of right now, the reasons are a complete mystery to everyone except Jesus Chavez and possibly other Board members.  Rumor has it that one of the Board members thought Romere was rude after the vote to raise the Superintendent's base salary to $260,000. 

It looks like this is another attempt to ambush and silence Romere, who has been an ardent voice for RRISD parents and taxpayers.

The meeting is scheduled for  6 P.M. in the Round Rock High School Lecture Hall.
Update:  Apparently it's even worse than we thought.  Terri Romere cannot even be present to face her accusers.  Her mother is critically ill and has been hospitalized for several weeks now, and Romere is assisting in moving her mother to a new medical facility this afternoon.  Just how nasty are these people going to be?  Maybe Romere has a puppy they can kick or something. 

Statement from Romere: 

Last week, I was the sole vote against the contract extension of the Round Rock ISD Superintendent.  Earlier this year, I voted in the minority against the ISD proposed boundary realignment recommendations.  Neither position has proven very popular with many of my fellow trustees or the school district administration.  During the boundary realignment consideration, several board members took exception to an email I forwarded in an effort to foster communication between constituents and referred the matter to the County Attorney for criminal investigation.  Now, some of those same board members want to go behind closed doors to discuss censuring me for something that has not been disclosed to me or my attorney.  I would opine that the fact that I was the lone dissenting vote may be a factor in the timing of this proposed censure.  I will not agree to a closed door meeting and have sent notice to the Board demanding that any discussion about a possible censure of me be conducted in an open meeting format, which is my right under Texas law.

My dissent is a constitutional right and a duty I have to the citizens who elected me.  No amount of bullying, intimidation, or harassment is going to silence what I feel is my moral responsibility to my office or my constituents.  My fellow board members may take whatever action they feel is necessary, but I will not be taking part in further wasting the Board’s time or our ISD resources.  Instead, I will be spending the evening with my critically ill mother who is being transferred to another hospital.
Attorney Letter to RRISD April 24 20120001

Friday, April 20, 2012

Great News: School Super Presiding Over District Decline Will Get Raise in Down Economy

Round Rock ISD School Superintendent Jesus Chavez, who was already raking in  $252,875 per year plus benefits, will not feel the effects of the Obama economy.  It seems that the Round Rock school board voted last night to give him an $8,000 per year raise; including his lavish benefits, taxpayers will provide Chavez with well over $300,000 per year.   

Perhaps the raise was out of gratitude for overseeing the RRISD's drop from being a 'Recognized' district to becoming 'Academically Acceptable.'  One of the most glaring problems in the ISD is the new Cedar Ridge High School:  a nearly $100 million dollar state-of-the-art campus complete with a coffee bar for students, but an academically unacceptable rating.  The school has been very much in the news since woefully inept calculations on the part of Chavez' administration led to overcrowding at CRHS and forced the board to impose yet another painful redistricting on the parents and children of Round Rock. 

The Round Rock school board seems to be moving ever further from listening to the needs of the whole community.  Rather than answering to the electorate, it looks like they answer to the Superintendent they hired.  Despite the public outcry about the redistricting, certain board members expressed outrage that anyone would even dare to question the administration's plan.  After all, they know what's best for kids, not these stupid parents.  Shoot, these parents don't even have a PhD in Education; what can they possibly know about children?

By the way, taxpayers will still be on the hook for Superintendent Chavez' retirement for years to come.  This raise ups his average salary and will ensure that his retirement is very, very comfortable.

Just another reason it is high time to hold our Texas School Districts financially accountable. 

Monday, April 9, 2012

America Is Number One

(I am writing a regular column for the Hill Country News and the Jarrell Star Ledger.  This is my most recent...)

America is number one again, but hold your applause. Since Japan slashed its corporate tax rate by 5% last week, the United States now holds the title for “highest corporate tax rate” in the world. In this case, our 'number one' status does not bode well for the future of our country.

Although the official U.S. corporate tax rate stands at 35%, combined with state taxes the effective rate is a punitive 39.2%. The world average is 25% and European welfare states are even lower. Having significantly higher tax rate than the rest of the world dramatically reduces the ability of American businesses to compete in what is now a global economy.

Contrary to what the political Left would have us believe, higher taxes do impact behavior and productivity. Part of the justification for so-called 'sin' taxes on items like cigarettes and alcohol is that the higher taxes will reduce use of those items. However, when it comes to taxes on both corporations and individuals, proponents always assume those targeted will maintain the same levels of profitability. But that's just not the way it works in the real world.

Historically, higher rates of taxation actually reduce revenues. High tax proponents claim that revenues do not change much as a percentage of the Gross Domestic Product, however, such claims often ignore the changes in total GDP due to increased economic activity. While the percent of GDP may remain unchanged or even fall, increases in GDP mean bigger revenue slice from a bigger pie. After Ireland slashed corporate taxes from 50% to 12.5%, its economic growth doubled that of the United States and tax revenues soared until the global recession. (Unfortunately, Irish politicians went on an unrestrained spending spree and now the country is struggling under massive debt; sound familiar?)

But our highest rate status is not the only problem with the U.S. corporate tax law. Not all companies pay the top rate since our government is very much in the business of choosing winners and losers. Companies in the 'right' industries pay little or nothing, while demonized businesses, such as ExxonMobil pay a whopping 45%.

Supposedly President Obama has proposed cutting the corporate rate from 35 to 28%, but, as seems to be the case with any of this administration's proposals, there's a catch. Obama's plan will further increase penalties on new investment and increase taxes on companies competing in the global market. His 'reform' will effectively impose $250 billion in additional taxes on corporations. And while the President's plan closes some loopholes, it creates a whole new set of loopholes for a new set of 'favored' industries.

While we wish the President would look to the policies of successful job-creation states like Texas (which created more than half of all jobs in the US over the past two years,) Obama clearly prefers what he calls 'government investment' over private investment. Never mind that according to various CBO figures, the average cost for a job 'created' by recent so-called government 'stimulus' programs is $407,241.*

Although there are relatively successful areas like Texas, current federal tax rates are already inhibiting growth and preventing repatriation of overseas profits. If the President gets his way and the federal government increases the penalties for economic activity, the bottom line is that there will be even fewer jobs for Americans.

Just another reason to hope for change in November 2012.

*There are numerous estimates for the average cost of creating a job via the government:  Some are as low as $228,000, some say $586,428, and I've seen a few claiming nearly $1 million.  Since our federal government is not exactly transparent, and no-one has a clear answer as to how many jobs the government 'created,' it's really hard to pin down...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wilco GOP Candidate Forum: A Bipartisan Affair?

The Williamson County Republican Women held a candidate forum today for GOP candidates for County Commissioner and County Attorney. Candidates attending were Precinct 1 Commissioner Lisa Birkman, Precinct 3 Commissioner Val Covey, candidate for Precinct 3 Greg Windham, and the three candidates for County Attorney: Dee Hobbs, Rick Kennon, and Jeff Maurice.

Commissioner Birkman's opponent, Lee Ann Seitsinger, declined to attend. Observers at other forums that have indicated that while Ms. Seitsinger seemed to be a nice person, she seemed uninformed and was unable to answer questions about the issues. She has attempted to make the county's road bond debt an issue in this race (as has Precinct 3 challenger Greg Windham.) The bonds in question were approved by voters back in 2000 and 2006, and while Ms. Seitsinger registered to vote in Williamson County in 2004, according to public records, she did not vote in the 2006 bond election. (One might excuse this if the bond vote were held during one of those 'stealth' elections I so deplore, but no, this was during a general election that included a highly contentious gubernatorial race.)

Ms. Seitsinger also neglects to mention that other Texas counties with populations the size of Williamson have large cities which take on bond debt for road construction.  In our case, the county rather than the cities have taken on the infrastructure bond debt.  When we compare total infrastructure bond debt, Williamson County is not at the top as Seitsinger claims, but at the middle of the pack for similar-sized counties. 

Both Birkman and Covey were able to talk a great deal about their work on behalf of Williamson County. Despite 69% growth across the county, they have worked to provide infrastructure, keep taxes low, and maintain a balanced budget. Because of their work on the court, the county's bond rating rose from a negative AA to AAA, which allowed them to refinance the bond debt.

Commissioner Covey also discussed the work she has done to implement deadlines for TXDOT's environmental review processes. One issue that has proved especially costly for Williamson County has been the often frustrating  extensive red tape imposed on road construction by both state and federal agencies. 

Precinct 3 challenger Greg Windham formerly ran against Covey as a Democrat in 2008 and served briefly as the Williamson County Democratic Party Chairman in 2010. In response to a question about the U.S. Department of Justice' threats to sue Williamson County over Spanish-English translators, Windham said that while he personally doesn't think citizens should be allowed to vote unless they speak English, he thought that Wilco should cooperate with Obama's DoJ and make “peace” and cultivate a relationship.

(FYI: The Department of Justice states that for every precinct with a 5% or more hispanic surname ratio, there must be a Spanish speaking poll worker. As many Texans know, there are plenty of folks here who have Hispanic surnames and don't speak a lick of Spanish. In my years as an election judge, I have only had one Spanish-only voter, and she simply read the ballot & instructions, which are all in Spanish and English.)

Of the three candidates for County Attorney, Dee Hobbs is currently a prosecutor in the Wilco CA's office, Rick Kennon is a former prosecutor and family law attorney with 27 years experience, and Jeff Maurice is a corporate attorney. Hobbs is well-liked in Williamson County and obviously very familiar with the workings of the CA's office. There is some nervousness amongst GOP voters about his possible loyalties to the incumbent Jana Duty. Duty's tenure has been characterized by intense controversy, numerous lawsuits, etc.  Still working in the CA office, no doubt Hobbs is treading carefully, but he did make a few statements today that seemed to indicate he would have a more positive working relationship with the Commissioners court and specifically praised Birkman for her efforts.

Rick Kennon, who touted his experience working for both the Travis County D.A. and the Texas Attorney Generals office, stated that he is the only candidate with experience in all legal areas that the County Attorney's office handles. Kennon emphasized he will bring a fresh start and an opportunity to re-set relations between the County Attorney's office and the Commissioners Court.

Maurice ran for Williamson County Commissioner back in 2010 as a Democrat, and only this year began to affiliate with the Republican Party. I asked the candidates why they switched parties and if they were planning to support Republicans all the way up the ballot. In response, Maurice stated that he had always been conservative even if he had a history of affiliation with the Democrat party. He did not indicate whether he would support a Republican for President.

In response to the same question Greg Windham said he switched parties because the Democrats wanted to “take my guns, take my babies, and kiss my men.” He also railed against GOP Governor Rick Perry and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst.

Although the candidates for District Attorney were not included in this forum, Windham and Maurice took several shots at incumbent DA John Bradley. Red herring anyone?

It was an interesting day...

Monday, April 2, 2012

Williamson County Republican Convention

With all the federal meddling in Texas' ability to conduct primary elections, the convention process has had to be re-worked.  Rather than holding precinct conventions immediately following the Primary Election (which won't take place until May 29,) most areas are moving directly to county or senatorial conventions. 

The Williamson County Republican Party will hold a county convention on Saturday, April 14 at the Taylor Main Street Campus.  (Old High School, 3101 North Main, Taylor, TX 76574) 

Without the usual precinct conventions, the State Republican Executive Committee passed emergency rules regarding eligibility.  If you are a registered voter in the county, you may fill out an "Oath of Affiliation" with the Republican Party.  You can find the oath and more details on both the county and state conventions at the WCRP website: 

 Since the County Convention will take place prior to the Primary Election, my guess is most of the GOP candidates will be on hand for some 'heated' fellowship.