Friday, August 29, 2008

Simple Energy Plan: Keep Your Tires Filled, Drive Slower And Lose A Little Weight

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By Rocky Boschert

A few weeks ago, Presidential candidate John McCain of the Oil & War Party ridiculed Barack Obama for suggesting that if automobile drivers across the land were to keep their tires inflated to the levels recommended by the tire manufacturers, Americans would consume less gasoline. As it turns out, McCain was wrong and Obama was right. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, keeping our car tires inflated to the correct levels would decrease our gasoline consumption by 3%, which would nationally save about 1.2 billion gallons of gasoline per year. McCain later corrected his attempt at Obama criticism.

As the Presidential competency debate moves forward, both candidates are grappling with the issue of the need for offshore drilling. John McCain, being advised by his oil company lobbyist staff, for some reason is all for it. Obama, who would rather lower oil consumption in general, is lukewarm to the idea. So, do we really need to drill offshore and risk degrading our water, seashores and aquatic wildlife to continue feeding America’s oil addiction? The answer is a resounding NO! And here’s why.

Energy experts say that after the initial five year exploration, drilling, and refining period, opening up drilling offshore would generate about 1.4 billion gallons of gasoline a year. Well, we can see with the tire pressure solution that 1.2 billion gallons of gasoline savings alone would almost match the offshore drilling oil to gasoline yield.

But what about driving slower? Well, two-thirds of all drivers say they speed sometimes. What would happen if just those speeding US drivers drove 5 miles an hour slower? Again, according to the US Department of Energy, we would see a consumption drop of 4.8 billion gallons of gasoline every year.

And what about the added body weight that the American obesity epidemic adds to our gasoline consumption? Well, if every obese American would eat a few less
Big Macs with super fries each week and lose 10 pounds, estimates contend we would see an additional 1 billion gallons of gasoline consumption savings per year with Americans weighing less, eating healthier and exercising.

So, for all you oil addicted, obese speeders out there, 1) having your tires inflated, 2) driving slower, and 3) losing weight would decrease our US gasoline consumption by 7.2 billion gallons of gasoline per year, nearly four times the gasoline that would ultimately be produced by offshore drilling. Seems like a no-brainer to me.

But wait; it doesn’t end there. High gasoline prices also save lives. You see, expensive gasoline makes people drive less, thereby reducing the number of annual automobile accidents, which means fewer annual driving fatalities. And if obese individuals lost weight in order to make driving less expensive for themselves, they would be healthier and we would all save money through lower health insurance premiums. In case you don’t know, insurance premiums are actuarially adjusted up for all of us who are healthy because of the unhealthy insured. Someone needs to tell John McCain to read this article.

Finally, what can we do locally to lower energy consumption and live healthier? Well, for starters, if during the Christmas holidays local Wimberley businesses would use timers on their Christmas lights so they turn off between 1 AM and 6 AM, business owners would lower their utility bills and we would use less coal generated electricity and disperse less poisonous dioxins in the air. And because the local businesses would pay the newly un-corrupt PEC reduced energy bills, they wouldn’t have to raise prices as much for their goods and services and increase inflation in the process. Everybody wins!

Hey Barack! Your ratings are sliding. We need to have lunch and talk about your energy-related economic policy.

Rocky Boschert has resided in Wimberley since 1993. He currently serves as board president of the Katherine Anne Porter School (KAPS) in Wimberley. Mr. Boschert owns and manages Arrowhead Asset Management.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

PEC: Burnett, Fuelberg Received Large Payments From Texland Account

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August 26, 2008

PEC MEDIA CONTACT: Anne Harvey, (830) 868-4933; Austin line, (512) 219-2602

JOHNSON CITY – In a letter to Pedernales Electric, received Aug. 21, former PEC General Manager Bennie Fuelberg and former Board President W.W. “Bud” Burnett revealed payments made to them and to then-Pedernales Electric General Counsel A.W. Moursund from the recently disclosed Texland Electric Cooperative bank account. According to the letter, payments to Fuelberg and Burnett were approximately $111,600 each; Moursund received approximately $150,000. It is believed the payments were made in the late 1980s.

The one-time payments, according to the letter signed by Burnett and Fuelberg, were for work they and Moursund performed to help end decade-long litigation relating to the Texland project. “We believe the money we were paid by Texland was earned for years of hard but ultimately successful efforts on behalf of Texland, efforts that also benefited PEC,” the letter states. “Following this payment, we never received another payment from this account or from Texland.”

“We have forwarded this information to Navigant Consulting,” said current PEC General Manager Juan Garza, “and we will continue researching our own records and working with the Lower Colorado River Authority and Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative to inform our members and the public about all the confirmed details of this situation. At this juncture, we have found no record of our Board being informed of these payments prior to now, and sitting members who were on the Board at that time do not recall approving them.”

Upon receiving the letter from Fuelberg and Burnett, Garza shared the information with PEC and Texland Board members prior to making the information public.

“I am outraged at these new revelations,” said PEC District 4 Advisory Director Robert Reed, who has voiced strong support for learning all the details of the Texland bank account. “I was not aware that Texland was an active entity, and certainly not aware there was a non-interest-bearing bank account in Texland’s name. To find out payments were actually made from this account without Board knowledge and approval is extremely disheartening.”

Texland was a joint venture between PEC and Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative to create a lignite-powered generation project to supply electricity to the two cooperatives. The project was scuttled after the Public Utility Commission of Texas denied Texland’s permit to build the plant.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Retirement Center Says No To Voter Petition Drive

Editor's Note:
Precinct 1 County Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe told the RoundUp she was not aware that persons involved in a voter petition drive had been asked to leave the Southside Village Retirement Community. Ingalsbe sits on the board of the Southside Community Center which she said owns phase one of the Southside Village Retirement Community. "I know there's no soliciting (at the center), but I'm not aware that happened," Ingalsbe said on Monday. As to the point her father made that she should be re-elected because she is Hispanic and a minority, Ingalsbe doesn't necessarily agree. "I would hope that's not the only reason I'll be re-elected," she said. "I have provided services not just for Precinct 1 but for what the entire county needs."

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By Charles O'Dell


I had a shocking experience while collecting voter signatures in San Marcos to get Bill Wyatt’s name placed on the Hays County November election ballot as a write-in candidate. Bill is running for Hays County Precinct 1 commissioner against 12-year incumbent Democrat Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe.

We were knocking on doors of homes in the Sunrise Village Retirement Community and enjoying the opportunity of visiting with the elderly residents who often invited us in to talk and to sign our Petition in Lieu of a Filing Fee for Bill Wyatt. One elderly lady wanted to vote by mail, and I promised to deliver a mail ballot application to her. An elderly gentleman was born on Pearl Harbor day in 1942, and we chatted about our fathers’ World War II military service. Behind every door was someone who greeted us, engaged in welcome conversation and either willingly signed our petition or chose not to for their own reasons.

Sunrise Village Retirement Community
Sunrise Village is a development by Southside Community Center, a non-profit funded each year by Hays County, City of San Marcos and other sources. Ruben Garza is Executive Director of Southside and Ralph Gonzales (Commissioner Ingalsbe’s father) works for Southside as a carpenter. Commissioner Ingalsbe serves on the board of Southside Community Center. Ralph, Ruben and Debbie are a team.

We encountered Ralph Gonzales while working our way through Sunrise Village and he inquired what we were doing there. Not that it was any of his business, but we told him we were collecting signatures of registered voters to get Bill Wyatt on the ballot as a write-in candidate for Precinct 1 county commissioner.

“Why are you running someone against my daughter, Debbie?” Ralph asked. “Why don’t you like her?” he said. “Bill Wyatt is not a minority and every county must have a minority elected, and Debbie is a minority, and she has to be elected,” Ralph went on to say.

I was dumfounded. Debbie “...had to be re-elected because she is a minority?” What happened to giving voters the right to choose their elected officials? “Surely you don’t believe Debbie has an entitlement to be Precinct 1 County Commissioner,” I responded. “Precinct 1 voters will decide who their commissioner will be.” Not knowing what else to say, I asked Ralph if he would sign the Wyatt petition. He declined.

Ralph then hustled over to the nearby Village office. It wasn’t long before a woman claiming to be Beatrice Natal, the leasing manager, interrupted a voter signing our petition by telling us that we had to leave. No reason given, we just had to leave. I tried to explain that we were simply giving these voters an opportunity to exercise one of their most important civil rights, but Natal insisted that we leave.

Ralph stood by watching. He had been successful in violating the civil rights of these elderly voters who he believed, for some unfathomable reason, had no right to vote for anyone other than his daughter, Commissioner Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe. I assume Ralph made clear to Natal that her job could be in jeopardy if she allowed us to continue our time-honored efforts.

As they have done in the past, I expect Ralph, his daughter Commissioner Ingalsbe and other members of their family will confront some of those who signed the Wyatt petition. This is not how their democracy works in Precinct 1. The Gonzales view reminds me of politics in Mexico. His daughter is entitled to be Precinct 1 Commissioner, and through Debbie, Ralph and Ruben Garza can continue their hold on Precinct 1 for their own rewards.

When informed voters go to the polls I believe they will act in their own best interests, and not in the self interests of elected officials. And no one should interfere with our democratic process for electing public officials. Fair, open and honest competition is a hallmark of the American way. Entitlement is a perverted view of democracy.

As co-founder of Hays Community Action Network (HaysCAN) in 2003, Mr. O’Dell strives to carry out the mission of ensuring open, accessible and accountable government. He is a long time and close observer of the workings of the Hays County Commissioners Court. He earned a degree in Agricultural Education and a Masters in Ag Economics at Texas Tech, and, later, a Ph.D. at The University of Maryland while employed as a Research Economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington, D.C. Texas born and raised on a family farm, O’Dell is a Hays County Master Naturalist and a board member of the Ethical Society of Austin.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Coming Soon: More Details On PEC's "Mystery" Bank Account

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By Linda Kaye Rogers

The public announcement of a bank account in the name of Texland Cooperative was made about two weeks ago by PEC General Manager Juan Garza. This account was brought to his attention by PEC's Chief Financial Officer, Mike Vollmer, as part of the termination of business with Cattleman’s Bank, where the account is held. Mr. Garza, in the spirit of openness, shared the information with members and the media. However, it seems things quickly moved into speculation and assumption as reports circulated. And there has also been a great deal of accusation and righteous indignation among members as part of the ongoing anger with past management and Board members.

It is anticipated that within 30 days, probably less, PEC members will have the full story regarding Texland and the “mystery” account. And hopefully we will also discover why this entity, Texland, still even exists. This is a big question. PEC Advisory Board Director Robert Reed, who was on the PEC Board in 1979, was dumbfounded to learn that Texland still existed. So for those of you who are sticking to the “secret” theory, you may have some meat on that bone yet!

First, let’s just take a few minutes to clarify this “account” and what we really do and don’t know about it. A little history lesson is in order.

In 1978, PEC and Bluebonnet Electric Co-op joined together and created the entity Texland Electric Cooperative, wholly owned by the two co-ops. The intent was to build their own electric generation facility to meet forecasted growth and to enable a separation from LCRA, PEC's principal source of power. Texland entered into a $2 million contract with Shell Oil Co. in May 1980 to secure a future source of lignite for the proposed plans.

Then in May 1982, Texland filed an application with the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUC) to construct and operate three coal-fired generation plants, which they called the Rockdale Power Project. At about the same time, PEC and Bluebonnet filed a lawsuit against LCRA seeking to be removed from their contractual requirements with LCRA. Three years of legal proceedings resulted in an agreement (Sept 1985) between PEC, BEC and LCRA. However, in December 1985, the PUC denied the application for construction of the Texland plants.

In 1986, LCRA made offers to BEC and PEC to settle any outstanding differences, presumably for the two co-ops extending their existing wholesale power contracts. Part of this agreement was that LCRA would compensate PEC and BEC for their expenditures in connection with the Texland project. The offer was accepted and on May 27, 1987, PEC received $12,903,126.74 and Bluebonnet received $3,754,759.71.

Here is an important fact: LCRA agreed to pay a total of $18,063,110.91 which included various expenditures incurred by the two co-ops, (covered in above amounts) AS WELL as reimbursement for certain accrued expenses or outstanding liabilities of Texland that had yet to be paid (at the time of the settlement). This amount was $1,405,224.46. The records that PEC does have available show that $1.4 million was indeed used by Texland to pay its remaining outstanding liabilities.

So, there was $565,000 left in the Texland account. Note that this is a Texland account, not a PEC account.

Now we have to ask why the account and money, and even Texland, still exist. It appears that Texland may have had continued unresolved claims and obligations after the settlement with LCRA. This includes a potential recovery from Shell Oil Co in relation to the $2 million contract from 1980, as well as some liabilities for costs incurred that were not included in the LCRA settlement. The Shell Oil contract provided for the potential refund, with interest, under certain conditions. The result of this is currently unknown.

Here is what we do know . . .
that PEC recouped all its investment, plus interest via the $12 million settlement from LCRA. As such, PEC’s financial statements ceased to reflect any investment in Texland after July 1987.

The only two signatories on the Texland account were former PEC board president and former general manager, Bud Burnett and Bennie Fuelberg. It appears that they may be two of the three Texland board members still living. Initially the account was with Johnson City National Bank, but was moved in the late 80’s when Cattleman’s Bank opened. The monthly statements were sent to Bud Burnett at the PEC headquarters, who had them forwarded to Rory Boatright. He is also shown as a Director of Texland, affiliated with Cattleman’s Bank and the Moursund Law Firm. And he appears to be the accountant and/or treasurer of Texland.

PEC chief financial officer Vollmer, in that position since Oct. 2003, has always been aware of the account, and the entity Texland as a “business” owned by PEC, but since it was not a PEC account, he had no jurisdiction over the account. Note that there was also no business activity between PEC and Texland. On an annual basis, Vollmer communicated with then GM Bennie Fuelberg regarding various business activities of PEC and asked if they were to be continued or not. Each year, Mr. Fuelberg nodded assent for the continuation of Texland.

Available PEC records indicate there has been no activity on the account for at least the past six years.
However, it appears that there are Texland records, Cattleman’s Bank records and Moursund Law Firm records that have not been available to PEC.

Cattleman’s Bank put a hold on the account just before the Texas Rangers also intervened recently to have the account frozen. Their preliminary investigation results have been turned over to the Texas Attorney General's office. Cattleman’s has also implemented legal action that disallows PEC, BEC, Burnett or Fuelberg access to the account until rightful ownership of the account is ascertained. Mr Garza has stated that all of these actions are prudent and in the best interest of all concerned.

While Cattleman’s might not mind a non-interest bearing account of more than a half million dollars, there may also be some very good reasons for it. Some quick research shows that this type of account in the 1980’s was not uncommon.

On August 12, both PEC and Bluebonnet boards met and elected three of their own board to the Texland board. On Monday, August 18 these six new Texland board members met and removed all current Texland board directors from the Texland Board and elected new officers. They were given this authority by the two parent boards, PEC and BEC. This new Board has full authority to close the Cattleman’s account, transfer it to another secured banking establishment and named a PEC and a BEC board representative as signatories. They will now also have full access to all Texland documentation which will be gathered at the PEC headquarters. The Navigant group, currently doing an exhaustive audit of the PEC, will act as investigators in cooperation with the Texland board, PEC and BEC.

Linda Kaye Rogers grew up on a small family farm in the Rio Grande Valley. She received her BA and Masters of Science in Social Work from UT Arlington. She has taught smoking cessation, communication skills, stress management and parenting in hospitals, corporations, community groups and churches. Linda Kaye moved to Wimberley in 2000 where she built a straw-bale cottage and immediately established a rainwater collection system as her water supply. That same year she began volunteering at the Katherine Anne Porter School and has worked in various capacities at the school. She is an avid organic gardener, animal lover, conservationist, and environmentalist. In 2005 she spearheaded efforts to defeat a road bond that would have benefited a developer and cost Woodcreek North residents a dramatic and 20-year tax increase.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

November Road Bond: Boon or Boondoggle?

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By Charles O'Dell

One thing you can say about county commissioners Jeff Barton (Pct 2) and Will Conley (Pct 3) is that they are persistent, and they won’t take no for an answer from our voters.

This past February, Hays County commissioners’ court created the Transportation Bond Advisory Committee (BAC) and approved funding, “to seek voter approval of additional bond financing for needed roadway improvements in the County.” The key word here is “additional.”

The BAC, comprised of nine citizens appointed by the commissioners’ court was charged with evaluating and prioritizing transportation (road) projects for possible inclusion in a road bond scheduled for this November general election. The key word here is “possible.”

At the core of this November 2008 road bond are two of the original TxDOT Pass-Through Financing roads, FM 1626 and FM 110, that voters turned down in the May 2007 road bond election. The other Pass-Through project, a five lane expansion of RR 12 between San Marcos and the Junction (Wimberley), was ditched and in its place a section of US 290 and various projects along and over I-35 were added.

The current cost guesstimate for these state and federal Pass-Through projects is $167,031,520 (TxDOT Contract No. PT 2005-013-001 Attachment C-1 [Budget]). These costs would be financed through county bonds and paid for by local property taxes. TxDOT promises to repay the County, not the taxpayers, up to $133 million over twenty years, assuming they have the funds.

While each of the four county precincts will share equally in property taxes paid, Pass-Through road expenditures show a different pattern:

Share of New Pass-Through Package Expenditures

Precinct 1 San Marcos……..18%
Precinct 2 Buda/Kyle………77%
Precinct 3 Wimberley……….0%
Precinct 4 Dripping Springs…5%

These figures and the May 2007 road bond election results bring into focus the Call for Projects recently made by commissioners’ court to school districts and municipalities across Hays County soliciting local road projects to include in the November Pass-Through road bond.

The Pass-Through package has to be sweetened for voters in Precincts 3 and 4.

Forty local road projects were nominated and the BAC hired a consultant firm to hold a Public Involvement Meeting in each county precinct the last week of July to, “determine which of the candidate projects should be included in the bond package on the November 2008 ballot.”

I attended the Wimberley and Dripping Springs public meetings facilitated by the consultants. At the Wimberley meeting, consultants and BAC members may have outnumbered public participants. In Dripping Springs the public turnout was sufficient to outnumber consultants, BAC members and public officials, barely. The purpose for these meetings is to get citizens to “prioritize” the local candidate road projects using previously determined criteria. Results of these efforts in each of the four public meetings will be summarized and certain local road projects will be included in the November 2008 road bond.

Will the highest priority local road projects be included in the road bond? Not necessarily. Remember the two key words: “additional” and “possible". The additional local projects are to sweeten the Pass-Through $167 million road bond. Out of the forty projects recommended locally, only some are possible add-ons to the Pass-Through bond. Which ones? That will be decided by BAC and that mix will be recommended to commissioners’ court. If the recommended mix isn’t sufficiently balanced to sweeten the Pass-Through bond, commissioners’ court will tweak the mix. So what happens to the public process to prioritize the local projects?

Keep in mind that the number of local road projects included in the Pass-Through bond will be limited also by how much larger commissioners’ court is willing to make the road bond. Will it be $200 million, $225 million or higher? Who knows? And who knows what each of the local road projects would cost to complete?

The county’s transportation advisor, Mike Weaver of Prime Strategies, will likely provide some by gosh and by golly estimates to help the court decide which local projects will fit within a court defined upper bond limit (the amount above the $167 million Pass-Through cost).

Wait, there’s more.

Commissioners Barton and Conley got Commissioner Debbie Ingalsbe (Pct 1) to go along with them and the court approved $19.5 million in special tax bonds that don’t require voter approval. It appears these funds are being expended to keep the Pass-Through project work continuing and to pay for the BAC consultants, Prime Strategies and other public relations efforts by Barton.

Remember, only the local road projects were identified for citizens to prioritize for “possible” inclusion in the November $167 million Pass-Through road bond. It has been suggested that all of the local road projects in all four county precincts could be completed for far less than just the $167 million state and federal Pass-Through road projects.

Personally, I don’t appreciate elected officials resorting to pandering, trickery and misinformation in trying to circumvent previous election results. Scrap the state and federal Pass-Through projects on which voters have already spoken, and give us a much smaller road bond that we can afford in these hard times, and complete all of the forty local roadway improvements needed in the County.

As co-founder of Hays Community Action Network (HaysCAN) in 2003, Mr. O’Dell strives to carry out the mission of ensuring open, accessible and accountable government.
He is a long time and close observer of the workings of the Hays County Commissioners Court. He earned a degree in Agricultural Education and a Masters in Ag Economics at Texas Tech, and, later, a Ph.D. at The University of Maryland while employed as a Research Economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in Washington, D.C. Texas born and raised on a family farm, O’Dell is a Hays County Master Naturalist and a board member of the Ethical Society of Austin.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Wimberley's A Special Place, But Will It Last?

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By Rocky Boschert

I travel quite frequently. If I’m not traveling for business, then it’s with my wife on vacations to foreign countries -- mainly in the Americas. And the more I travel and see what is going on around this hemisphere, it doesn’t take me long to look forward to eventually coming back home to Wimberley.

Now don’t get me wrong. If I were single, I probably wouldn’t live in Wimberley. The problem for single people in Wimberley is there’s really no place to go and meet other single people (unless you consider church a singles meeting place). But that’s OK; single people can go to Austin and San Marcos for their social needs.

What makes Wimberley such a special place, in spite of the annoying home spotlights installed by Houston migrants, is the diversity in the Wimberley Valley. In this beautiful valley we have right wing nationalists, left wing progressives, conservative Democrats, intelligent Republicans (you know, the old guard “government should stay out of our lives, don’t attack countries that don’t attack us first, anti-corporate welfare” types), old hippies, young hippies, evangelical conservatives, evangelical liberals, illegal immigrants, legal immigrants, and a sizable dose of simple free market, middle class families. We also have our share of great musicians, fine artists, and other creative types.

With all that human diversity, people are almost always tolerant and friendly (unless you let slip that Bush is a high level lobbyist for the weapons manufacturers and oil companies). And for the most part, Wimberley residents love their children and are strong family advocates. Overall, my wife and I are lucky to live among such a condensed population of common sense, tolerant, good hearted folks.

From a business standpoint, Wimberley is mostly a healthy free enterprise environment. We are not a corporate town and we all do our best to support local businesses. Yes, there is a fair share of crony patronage going on at the local and county level, but that seems to be the human condition -- at least under the blind, pro-business mantra so endemic in Texas. Unfortunately, government is no longer seen as the necessary but useful vehicle that fills the needs of society the private sector can’t fill. For the most part, government’s role now (or should I say the role of our elected officials) is to use economic rhetoric to funnel our tax dollars to businesses and corporations as crony patronage payments. We see it at the local and county level quite clearly. But hey, that’s another article.

In the end, if Wimberley (and Hays County) residents can stay in touch with keeping the local environment healthy and keeping our healthy economy local, I look forward to living here a long time. On the other hand, if we as a community decide to go the way of greedy growth and mindless development, then I may have to reconsider my life choices.

If the latter occurs, maybe I’ll start a business providing rent-a-cop security for the gated, primarily Caucasian communities that would pop up. Or, if we really go the way of cutesy gentrification, I can sell my perfectly comfortable, modernized, energy efficient river house to the highest bidder with the money to tear it down and build a new two-story, utility-guzzling structure on my modest one-quarter acre.

Which begs the questions: “Which way is the ‘Wimberley Way’?”

Rocky Boschert has resided in Wimberley since 1993. He currently serves as board president of the Katherine Anne Porter School (KAPS) in Wimberley. Mr. Boschert owns and manages Arrowhead Asset Management.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Analyzing Bennie, Bud And The PEC

By Linda Kaye Rogers

For over a year the PEC has received lots of negative coverage from area media. It's quite understandable since our electric co-op, the nation's largest, has been the target of a class action lawsuit and is the focus of investigations by a hill country DA, the Texas State Senate and a congressional committee.

Two key figures, former GM Bennie Fuelberg and former board president Bud Burnett, have “retired” under pressure. There have been numerous changes in policy and procedure, the hiring of a new general manager in Juan Garza and a historic first open election of new board directors. Openness and transparency have enabled members and the press to access information that will no doubt keep our beloved co-op in the news and in flux for some time to come.

All of this was long past due.

As I look back at the many changes and progress we’ve made, my “psychological brain" kicks in and starts evaluating and assessing. I find that my psychological brain and “member brain” are conflicted. And then my “practical brain" speaks up.

As a PEC member, my brain still registers outrage at the secrecy and self-serving behaviors of the old guard management and Board. I want to scream at the unfairness of the attempted settlement of the lawsuit. I want to smack the authorities who are letting Bennie and Bud evade a federal subpoena. And while I’m at it, I’d also like to smack some of the old guard who insist on remaining evasive and defensive of their behaviors. As each new bit of information seeps out, I find myself having to do more and more deep breathing to keep my blood pressure on the chart!

Alas, I am a non-violent person and my psychological brain tells me to look at the whole picture. So, to practice what I preach (and teach), I collect all the info I can, and like a puzzle that has a lot of varied sections and colors, I sort it and put it together. In this puzzle, there are still some pieces missing, but the theme and pattern are pretty well established. The puzzle represents the past, present, and future of PEC. The “past pieces” are mostly the ugly ones and some are still missing. But there are a few pleasant pieces to be found. The “present” pieces are coming in at a rapid rate and they are all fun and pretty. The “future” pieces are all there, but have no shape and so far, only the color “green."

Ugly pieces of the past

Non-transparency, excessive spending, both in business and personally, by the former general manager and Board members with no obvious oversight. No-bid contracts. Nepotism and a Good Ol' Boy system that was very much alive and well. Non ‘co-operative” functioning (election and capital credit issues). Poor transition into 21st century issues like renewable energy.

The pretty pieces
Good rates. Excellent service. Dedicated employees. High bond rating. Overall customer satisfaction. Excellent response to growth issues.

As I think about these positives and negatives, my practical brain asks, “How could the positives happen if so much “bad” was going on? Something must have been getting done that was supporting and benefiting the members while the GM and Board were having a grand time at member expense!”

So member brain says, “Maybe more could have been done with better fiduciary management.” Practical brain and psychological brain say, “This is all past and the reality is that we cannot change the past." My psychological brain says, “Learn from it and move on.” Member brain is not happy about this and hopes there can be some satisfaction in terms of accountability for actions. And most of all, the member in me wants to see the “retirement fund” yanked from a non-existent job for Bud Burnett.

My practical side reminds me that we member-customers have some responsibility in all this. Many of us trusted and let things happen. And then I hear that same admission from some of the old guard Board, “We trusted Bennie, blah blah.” Member's retort was, “it was your job (Board) to pay attention!”

But as a practical matter, what do we gain by pursuing actions that are already in the process of changing? Is it really wise to dump all the old guard who have a large base of knowledge and years of experience? Why not allow the “new guard” gain all they can in experience and knowledge as members make the decisions through elections to remove the old guard? After all, in one more year members have the chance of electing two more new directors, and in two years, the chance to make a final sweep of the old guard."

A pretty present
There are many “present” pieces of the puzzle, including some much visible change in attitude and behavior of the old guard. These are “pretty” changes. At the July meeting of the Board, a Director Compensation Package was voted on. A committee led by recently retired Advisory Board Member Libby Linebarger recommended reinstating essentially the same old monetary compensation package. But a newly elected Board Director, Patrick Cox of Wimberley, offered a greatly reduced compensation package that was UNANIMOUSLY accepted. There was no anger or bickering. Opinions were expressed and even some positive comments, but it passed with no opposition. In fact, this Board meeting exhibited a very pleasant interaction and cooperation between the old and the new. All my brains were clapping at this.

The Board agreed to what I believe were some questionable "insider" committee appointments, but there may be a move afoot to begin appointing ordinary outside members to committees. The fate of the ten, non-voting advisory and at-large Board directors (whether to keep them or do away with them) was tabled to the August meeting. The Board met for four long hours and had been in executive session earlier, so maybe we’re getting some bang for our buck! This is looking good. My practical and psychological brains both tell me to be patient and work through the process of change.

The future looks good
The “future” pieces have a strong theme consisting of renewable energy and conservation, continued changes in governance, policy and by-laws and a complete change in the old guard. All “brains” are pretty happy and excited about these prospects.

I think I forgot to mention that this puzzle has about a million pieces! When my “brains” work on it, I find it impossible to get a single, simplistic reaction. It’s just too involved if I look at the whole picture. But look at the whole picture I must. Viewing and responding only to pieces and portions sets me up as a target for propaganda and use by various special interest groups. I’m rather fond of my varied brains and usually enjoy the varied brains of others.

“I could never divide myself from any man upon the difference of an opinion, or be angry with his judgment with me in that, from which perhaps in a few days I should dissent myself.”
–– Browne

Linda Kaye Rogers grew up on a small family farm in the Rio Grande Valley. She received her BA and Masters of Science in Social Work from UT Arlington. She has taught smoking cessation, communication skills, stress management and parenting in hospitals, corporations, community groups and churches. Linda Kaye moved to Wimberley in 2000 where she built a straw-bale cottage and immediately established a rainwater collection system as her water supply. That same year she began volunteering at the Katherine Anne Porter School and has worked in various capacities at the school. She is an avid organic gardener, animal lover, conservationist, and environmentalist. In 2005 she spearheaded efforts to defeat a road bond that would have benefited a developer and cost Woodcreek North residents a dramatic and 20-year tax increase.