Thursday, May 24, 2012

Representative Dan Gattis Endorses John Bradley

Letter from the highly respected former Representative Dan Gattis endorsing John Bradley for Williamson County District Attorney. 

Gattis, Dan

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Lessons From Gatorland

My May 17 'All in Perspective' column for the Hill Country News and Jarrell Star Ledger.

I must reveal a dark, personal secret: I am not a native Texan. The truth is that I grew up in...Florida. I know for some this will be an unforgivable sin, but I beg your pardon while I share from my Sunshine State childhood.

Florida is known for great beaches, gorgeous flora and fauna, and lots of alligators. Due to over-hunting, the state's official reptile (no, really) had gotten pretty scarce in the last century, so in 1967, the alligator was listed as an endangered species. Later, under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, gators gained higher protection under federal law than pre-natal humans. With extensive prohibitions on hunting and habitat, these reptiles rebounded with a vengeance. By 1988, there were more than a million alligators in Florida alone. We had plenty of gators, and I have to tell you, I hate alligators.

Now I know Central Texans occasionally have to shoot some critters, and carrying a Ruger 'Coyote Special' like the Guv's is a badge of honor. But having grown up around alligators, I'll take the coyotes any day. As a child, I had several encounters with wild gators and will never forget the day my younger brother and I nearly stepped on a 9-footer sunning himself near our home. I think I still suffer from gator-induced PTSD. The fact is, gators get hungry and Florida Moms know they'll eat your kids as well as your pets.

Did I mention that I hate alligators?

But none of the dangers of gator overpopulation mattered to environmental activists. Until 2008, citizens were not permitted to kill alligators on their own property. Efforts to remove alligators from the Endangered Species List were met with howls of protest, and when lawmakers moved to allow very limited hunting in 1988, the gator protectors were fuming. Despite intense controversy, common sense eventually prevailed and although alligators are still highly protected, about 7,000 gators are legally harvested in Florida each year.

While it's true that I loathe, detest, and fear alligators, I really don't want them to become extinct. Contrary to what radical environmentalists would have us believe, Conservatives like myself are not out to “pave the earth.” I believe in being a good steward of our resources, and in the Teddy Roosevelt tradition, I consider myself a conservationist. The problem is that many environmental activists prefer radical 'solutions' and are unwilling to strike a balance between human needs and preserving nature.

Unfortunately, radical attitudes run rampant in federal agencies, as evidenced by the now former EPA administrator Al Armendariz's controversial plans to 'crucify' American energy producers. Citizens and elected officials alike dread having local species declared 'endangered,' because the federal red tape and control is inevitably costly and damaging to local economies, and sometimes it's just outright dangerous.

Here in Williamson County we do not have alligators (I'm here, aren't I?) but we do have a couple of cave bugs and three bird species that are considered 'endangered.' Consequently, the county has been at the mercy of costly red tape and federal oversight that curtail private property rights and limit activity.

Williamson County has its own Conservation Foundation and is currently studying and working to implement protections for local species. Unfortunately, liberal activists are attempting to circumvent the county's efforts and have demanded the federal government take emergency action to list three local salamanders as endangered. If they succeed, the county will face a whole new level of federal control over our local activity, and frankly that's not something we can afford.

Williamson County is a great, gator-free place to live, and we should work to preserve our local flora and fauna. However, our conservation efforts must be based on a common-sense balance between the needs of residents and environmental concerns. Let us allow the Williamson County Conservation Foundation do its work and keep the federal government out. And no alligators, please.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Round Rock School District Super-Sizes RRHS, Enjoys Extra Cash On Hand

At last week's Round Rock School Board Meeting, the Trustees and Administration went on an interesting spending spree.  Last year, School Superintendent Jesus Chavez was telling anyone who would listen that any cuts to the State Education budget would be devastating to his schools and that the district would be forced to lay off teachers.  This year, however, the district seems to have discovered some extra money.  Lots of it. 

Apparently the district has some funds leftover from the 2008 bond package, $36.5 million, to be exact.  In addition, board members noted that they have another $22.5 million lying about for spending. 

While some of the funds will go to a roof repair for Grisham Middle School, the board voted to spend $46.4 million to build two additional wings at Round Rock High School.  The reason?  Due to growth and the way the district has been zoned, RRHS is on-track to be over-crowded.  (As is Stony Point High School, and Cedar Ridge High School is already over capacity.)  The new wings will 'super-size' Round Rock High School to 4,142 students.

The solution the board has embraced is a marked deviation from previously stated ISD goals to keep high schools below 2,400 students.  What is especially disturbing about this move is that the board did not hold any public hearings or take public comments about this shift in planning for RRHS.  Do parents want a mega-high school?  Were any studies done in conjunction with the City of Round Rock regarding traffic flow in and around the school?

Oddly enough, Superintendent Chavez told the board last fall that the next most urgent need for the district would be an additional middle school.  Right now four different elementarys are feeding into Cedar Valley Middle School which will very soon be over-crowded.  Why isn't the district using the bond funds to address the most urgent needs?

Could it be that the Administration and some board members know that voters would not approve some of these projects?   Another pet project still on the table is the construction of a $25 million 'Success High School' for about 600 at-risk students (thus boosting academic ratings at other schools).  As one Trustee noted at the April 24 board meeting, voters just "don't understand' about these projects. 

So they have to sneak them in?

Of course, once Cedar Valley Middle School is bursting at the seems, then the voters are more likely to approve a new bond package for construction.

These projects may well be justified, but shouldn't the parents and taxpayers have been involved in the surprise spending of over $46 million?

On a final note, the lone dissenting vote was cast by the ostracized Terri Romere.  Is no one else listening to the families of Round Rock? 

I guess on the upside, it's good to know that RRISD doesn't have any fund shortages...

Friday, May 18, 2012

Lying Figures: Williamson County Debt

One of the astro-turfed issues that has come up in the campaigns for Williamson County Commissioner is that of the county's bond debt.  Occasional Republicans Lee Ann Seitsinger and Greg Windham have been basing their entire campaigns on the debt issue, but have been carefully twisting figures to support a narrative that is inaccurate. 

Seitsinger/Windham claim that Williamson County has one of the highest debts in the state, and if we use strategically selected data, it does appear that way.  However, unlike counties of similar population and growth patterns, Wilco does not include any large city governments that in other areas share the burden of infrastructure costs.  Wilco has a higher percentage of county infrastructure than comparison counties and therefore carries the bulk of related construction debt. 

If we include the debt carried in other counties by local cities and municipalities, Wilco's debt picture looks dramatically different.  For example, compared to rapid-growth counties Collin, Denton, and Fort Bend, with overall net debts of $5.6 million, $4.7 million, and $4.8 million respectively, Wilco's $3.2 million comes in last place.  While our per-capita overall net debt is mid-pack, we lead these counties in population growth and are among the fastest growing in the nation.

I am no fan of excessive government debt and I find the local government debt trends, especially in our school districts, highly disturbing.  However, when we compare apples to apples, it seems that Williamson County has been pretty responsible overall. 

Seitsinger is especially out of line in her criticisms here.  Of the two bond packages for which she blames Commissioner Birkman, one was passed in 2000, (Lisa Birkman did not take office until 2005,) and the second was in 2006.  Both were voter-approved, but Seitsinger did not even bother to vote in the 2006 election!  Maybe I could understand her lack of participation if the 2006 package had been one of those 'stealth' elections I so deplore, but no, this was on the ballot along with a highly contentious gubernatorial election.  Seitsinger has not been able to articulate what she would have done differently; when asked at a recent forum if she would have paid for road construction and maintenance with higher taxes rather than bonds, she became confused and did not answer the question. 

The winner of the 2006 gubernatorial race that Seitsinger didn't care about was Rick Perry of course.  One might note that although he now affiliates with the Republican Party, Greg Windham frequently airs his dislike of the Governor and took the opportunity to bash Perry at the Williamson County Republican Women's candidate forum.  And while he supported one Republican in 2010, Windham remained an ardent supporter of Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White in 2010. 

Seitsinger and Windham are old buddies (with Seitsinger endorsing Windham in the newspapers when he ran as a Democrat in 2008.)  They are supported by a large number of Wilco Democrats and a handful of individuals who may be suffering from BDS.  (Birkman Derangement Syndrome- like Palin Derangement Syndrome, it afflicts those who cannot abide strong, outspoken, conservative women who refuse to kiss any rings.)  It appears that Seitsinger/Windham have colluded in massaging statistics to gain leverage in an election year, and neither appears to fully embrace conservative values.

The choice for Williamson County Republicans is clear:  Birkman and Covey all the way.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Seitsinger Publicly Endorsed Democrat in 2008

It seems that "GOP" Primary candidate Lee Ann Seitsinger is not only an inconsistent voter (she has only voted in 30% of elections since 2004,) but she has publicly supported Democrats for public office as recently as 2008.  During that election cycle, Ms. Seitsinger composed a letter to the editor of the Round Rock Leader expressing her support for Democrat Greg Windham for County Commissioner. 

She states, "It takes a bold person to run as a Democrat in this county."  And "This choice is clear.  Windham all the way."

So although Lee Ann Seitsinger rarely votes, it looks like she voted for Democrats in 2008. 

At local candidate forums Ms. Seitsinger has been unable to answer basic questions about local government nor deviate from her pre-written talking points.  She did not bother to vote in the 2006 bond election she has used as the primary basis for her challenge to Commissioner Lisa Birkman, and again, her voting record indicates she really hasn't bothered herself with elections much at all. 

Even more disturbing is the support Seitsinger has received from several prominent Democrats, especially those lobbying to have several local species of salamander added to the Federal Engandered Species List.  If they succeed, Williamson County will be further subjected to the machinations of the Obama Administration's radical environmental agenda.  We can only speculate as to what Ms. Seitsinger has promised these folks, but it can't be good.

Incumbent Lisa Birkman has done an outstanding job guiding Williamson County through this high growth period during which we have become the number three county in the nation for job creation. 

For Republican voters in 2012, this choice is clear; Lisa Birkman all the way. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Early Voting Begins Monday

Governor Rick Perry in Wilco last week
to endorse Charles Schwertner,
Tony Dale, and John Bradley. (video below)

Well, the feds have graciously permitted the State of Texas to hold a Primary Election (no photo ID required to vote,) and Early Voting begins on Monday. 

Lots of local races to vote on in addition to the race for senate; on the latter Lawrence Person at the Battleswarm Blog has followed the race closely for the past year. 

Oh, yeah, that presidential nominee thing too. 

Governor Rick Perry visited Williamson County this week to endorse Charles Schwertner and Tony Dale, and then rocked the county when he endorsed District Attorney John Bradley for re-election. 

Bradley has been endorsed by most Republicans in the county; his opponent, controversial County Attorney Jana Duty has been endorsed by public sector unions and several Democrats.

For Williamson County Commissioners Court, Lisa Birkman (Precinct 1) and Val Covey (Precinct 3) are the right choices for Republicans.  Both have done outstanding jobs on the court.  Birkman's challenger, Leann Seitsinger, seems woefully uninformed and stopped attending forums after a few embarrassing performances.  Ms. Seitsinger is supported by the union-lite group, the Williamson County Employees Association, as well as Democrats who want salamanders in the county declared endangered so that they can bring in more federal oversight. 

For a full list of candidates on the ballot in Williamson County, check out the GOP webpage

Here are the Primary Election Dates and Times for Early Voting Locations:

Monday, May 14 through Saturday, May 19
8:00 am to 6:00 pm
Sunday, May 20
12:00 pm to 6:00 pm
Monday, May 21 through Friday, May 25
7:00 am to 7:00 pm
Main Location:
Williamson County Inner Loop Annex, 301 SE Inner Loop, Georgetown
Branch Locations:
Parks and Recreation Admin. Bldg., 1101 N. College, Georgetown
Cowan Creek Amenity Center, 1433 Cool Springs Way, Georgetown
McConico Building, 301 W. Bagdad St., Round Rock
Round Rock Randalls, 2051 Gattis School Rd, Round Rock
Brushy Creek Community Center, 16318 Great Oaks Dr., Round Rock
J.B. and Hallie Jester Annex, 1801 E. Old Settlers Blvd., Round Rock
Anderson Mill Limited District, 11500 El Salido Pkwy, Austin
Cedar Park Public Library, 550 Discovery Blvd., Cedar Park
Cedar Park Randalls, 1400 Cypress Creek Rd., Cedar Park
Pat Bryson Municipal Hall, 201 N. Brushy, Leander
Taylor City Hall, 400 Porter St., Taylor 
Hutto City Hall, 401 W. Front St., Hutto
Election day is Tuesday, May 29th, the day after Memorial Day.   

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Governor Perry Endorses Wilco DA John Bradley

During his speech today in Cedar Park, Governor Perry not only endorsed Republicans Tony Dale for Texas House and Charles Schwertner for Texas Senate, but also endorsed Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley for re-election.  His letter to Williamson County residents is below. 

Bradley Perry Letter- Final

Monday, May 7, 2012

A SAHM's Point of View

Last week's 'All in Perspective Column' for the Hill Country News and Jarrell Star Ledger.

“Guess what, his wife has actually never worked a day in her life.”
-Hillary Rosen on Mitt and Ann Romney

I'm sure Democratic strategist and Obama adviser Hilary Rosen rues the day she uttered those words. She was quickly denounced across party-lines, even by the President. Although Rosen offered an apology of sorts, her comments struck a nerve and launched a new front in the so-called Mommy Wars.

In this latest skirmish, the debate is over whether SAHM's (Stay-At-Home-Moms,) actually 'work,' whether Ann Romney is a 'real' SAHM, and whether SAHM's can actually understand economic issues. While most pundits were quick to assert that SAHM's do indeed 'work,' many leftist feminists were eager to defend Rosen.

National Organization of Women President Terry O'Neill even doubled-down on Rosen's gaffe by claiming that what Rosen should have said was “Ann Romney has never worked for pay outside the home a day in her life.” O'Neill went on to say that Ann Romney lacked the “life experience” and “imagination” to really understand the issues.

O'Neill's statement is even more indicative of the intolerance many ultra-feminists have for women who choose to stay at home with children. But don't believe that the denigration of SAHM's is limited to the National Organization for Women or the halls of the Democrat Party. Over the past decade American attitudes have become increasingly disparaging of women who choose to stay home with children.

For the past 12 years I have been a mom who does not “work for pay outside of the home,” but with two spirited boys I promise you, I do work hard. Unfortunately, there are those who believe that my occupation makes me ineligible to participate in local politics. Back in 2010 I testified before the Williamson County Commissioners Court in opposition to property tax increases. Proponents of those tax increases denounced me as “Holly the Homemaker Hack Job;” implying that since I did not 'work outside of the home for pay,' my opinion was invalid.

Stay at home mothers seem to be inherently discriminated against in politics. Here in Williamson County, two very capable women ran for the Round Rock School Board in 2010: one a working Mom, one a SAHM. The SAHM, Jennifer Shockley-Daniels, had children in RRISD schools, volunteered with the school district and PTA, chaired the Cultural Arts Committee, and served on several boundary committees. The other candidate was a female attorney from Austin. While acknowledging that both women were “good choices,” the Austin American Statesman endorsed the latter because in their own words, she was “a lawyer.” Apparently Shockley-Daniels' life experience and imagination were not sufficient for a seat on the school board. The lawyer won by 7 votes.

The subtle and not-so-subtle bias of the political Left is that Stay-at-home-Mom's are uneducated, incapable, and uniformed. But SAHM's do work and we are often hyper-aware of economic issues. We don't need the Consumer Price Index to tell us that we are paying more for groceries and that gas prices have increased 99% since President Obama's inauguration. Like most Americans, we have seen our incomes drop and our costs increase. It isn't just theory for us; we live the U.S. economy on a daily basis.

Democrats claim ownership of the 'women's vote' because Republicans are supposedly anti-woman. Meanwhile, the political Left is only supportive of women who agree with liberal-progressive policies and who have rejected the invaluable experience of full-time parenting. Whether they work-outside of the home or care for children full-time, Republican women are smart enough to look beyond promises of 'free' birth-control and abortions. What we really want is for our government to stop inhibiting our ability to provide for our own families and parent our children.

As Ann Romney stated, “Guess what women are talking about? They're talking about jobs, and they're talking about the legacy of debt that we're leaving our children.” Amen, sister.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

RRISD Stonewalls, Possibly Violates Open Meetings Act?

Unsurprisingly, the Round Rock School Board has refused to comply with Trustee Romere's request for public records.  Of course these documents are subject to open records and any citizen can request them, but the district makes sure it is very costly to do so. 

One of the reasons they claim they will not comply is due to the time frame for which Romere wants to view RRISD Board communications:  April 1-26.  But this time frame in and of itself is very interesting since it includes not only the communications prior to the Board's decision to censure Romere (April 24) but also all communications prior to the decision to extend the Superintendent's contract and raise his salary to $260,000 (April 19). 

This begs two questions:  What does Trustee Romere know/suspect, and what could the RRISD Board possibly fear becoming known to the public?

Even more serious, however, is the appearance that the RRISD Board may have violated the Texas Public Meetings Act.  Romere's attorney Ross Fischer has released text messages that Romere received from RRISD Board President Chad Chadwell.  Chadwell indicates that four board members requested the censure, and two others were "interested" after "we discussed the procedure with Bill."  Presumably 'Bill' refers to the RRISD attorney Bill Bingham. 

It appears that the Board discussed this matter without notifying Trustee Romere or the public as required by law. 

When questioned about his text message by the Community Impact Newspaper, Chadwell replied,
“We had actually added a discussion of her censure to the next agenda at a closed session meeting on April 19—she was not in that closed session, she had left,” Chadwell said. “So it was not discussed outside of a meeting.”
Is Chadwell admitting the Board added discussion of a possible censure to the April 19 meeting during the closed session?  If so, he should check the wording of the Texas Public Meetings Act, which requires that agenda items be posted prior to a Closed Meeting and that the accused must have the opportunity to request an Open Meeting.  Since it appears that President Chadwell allowed the matter to be discussed without 1) posting the agenda item, and 2) without notifying Trustee Romere, he may have violated the law. 

The law states:
And, Section 551.041:
As for Romere leaving the meeting, we presume she did so after all of the posted agenda items had been discussed.  Had she known there was another agenda item, would she have left?

One must wonder what else board members have discussed outside of the rules of the Open Meetings Act.  Is that why Romere has requested communications for the month of April? 

In their public comments regarding their rejection of Romere's public records requests, RRISD Board members claim they need to know why and what exactly Romere is looking for before they can comply.   My guess is that both Romere and the Board know very well what she is looking for, but no-one is talking, yet.

A governmental body shall give written notice of the date, hour, place, and subject of
each meeting held by the governmental body.

The notice of a meeting of a governmental body must be posted in a place readily
accessible to the general public at all times for at least 72 hours before the scheduled
time of the meeting, except as provided by Sections 551.044–551.046.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

County Attorney's Office Instructs RRISD on Procedure and Admonishes ISD Officials and Employees

Back in February, the Round Rock School Board voted 5-2 to ask the Williamson County Attorney's office to investigate Trustee Terri Romere for allegedly releasing a private email address.  The CA's office has now concluded their investigation of the matter, but probably did not give the results certain board members had hoped for.

In a letter to RRISD Superintendent Jesus Chavez dated April 26,2012, Assistant County Attorney Shannon C. Francis notes that although they do not usually investigate a possible crime unless the alleged victim makes a report, they did investigate and respond.  Francis also writes that in the future, "the more appropriate response" is to refer that individual to a local law enforcement agency."

So, basically the RRISD Board's PR stunt to shame Terri Romere was inappropriate.

The letter also states that the County Attorney's office is "not concluding that anyone definitely has or has not violated the Public Information Act."

Furthermore, Francis also notes that "records were released by the Round Rock ISD Superintendent with private email addresses visible." 

The County Attorney's letter does go on to say that it appears an attempt was made to redact the email addresses, however, "Failure to fully redact confidential information could also possibly or arguably indicate a violation of the Public Information Act."

In closing, Francis states:

"Accordingly, please consider this letter a cautionary admonishment that all officials and employees of the Round Rock ISD take care to understand their obligations under the Public Information Act."  And, "This concludes our investigation and no further action will be taken regarding your request."

So, this part of the "Destroy Terri Romere" campaign seems to be at an end.

Interestingly enough, the Round Rock School Board will be huddled tonight in closed session to decide if they will comply with Trustee Romere's request for documents.  It seems she has requested communications between April 1 and April 25 (the lynching took place on April 24) and the board and administration aren't too keen on turning them over.

I wonder why? 

Full moon this weekend, by the way.

P.S.  I do have the full copy of the County Attorney's letter to Chavez, but am unable to scan and post due to technical difficulties.  Will post as soon as I can get hardware issues resolved.