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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

"Coffee Roasters" spotted as new political movement


Have a little fun with this one while on your morning coffee buzz. A Happy and Prosperous New Year to all! Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net, to Mr. Boschert at arrowbiz@texasorp.com, or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story



The Coffee Roasters seem to attract intelligent Americans from the “union” north and the “confederate” south – as well as folks from peaceful and productive alternative lifestyles


By Rocky Boschert

Guest Commentary

While doing some research about the Tea Party movement that has asserted their willful right wing mob muscle ever since our first black President was elected, I discovered an interesting counter movement that call themselves the “Coffee Roasters.” Although they are largely silent and exert their own style of political muscle through consumer and investor activism (as well as the ballot), the Coffee Roasters are gaining recognition and influence.

The Coffee Roasters appear to be multi-denominational Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindis, Buddhists, agnostics, and atheists. Coffee Roasters strongly condemn Muslim terrorism and dislike as well, neocon-nativist bigotry, racism, xenophobia and hypocrisy.

Apparently the Coffee Roasters are a critical thinking, problem-solving group of American patriots, whose membership is made up of most ethnic groups, including the US dominated white immigrant Europeans. The Coffee Roasters seem to attract intelligent Americans from the “union” north and the “confederate” south – as well as folks from peaceful and productive alternative lifestyles.

Politically, the Coffee Roasters are made up of skeptical democrats, open-minded republicans, thoughtful independents, and practical libertarians. The Coffee Roasters, unlike the Tea Partiers, don’t hate and blame government for their problems because they know that the big US corporations and the rich elite control our government – making government ineffective and inefficient on purpose – by owning and manipulating the politicians for their benefit with their billions of dollars in legal bribe payoffs called lobby money.

Economically, the Coffee Roasters believe that the real threat to the American economy is corporate totalitarianism, not government socialism (as the Tea Partiers assert). Coffee Roasters contend that as long as non-human corporate entities controlled by a group of American oligarchs have more “rights” than our individual citizens and consumers, Americans will continue to watch Wall Street firms and the politically connected business elite gain more and more wealth and control – simply because they receive clear preferential treatment from government-embedded political lackeys.

As a result, Coffee Roasters deem it imperative to decentralize the American economy by buying goods and services from local businesses while boycotting the purchase of products and services of the large corporations whenever possible. Also, Coffee Roasters believe corporate executives and their Director boards need to be held criminally liable for pollution that endangers lives as well as any business malfeasance that results in a major threat to the economy, the collapse of a company, and the resulting layoffs of large numbers of workers.

Moreover, Coffee Roasters support tax incentives for US companies that bring jobs back to and keep jobs in America. Coffee Roasters would also like to see American companies that outsource manufacturing and services overseas pay a 10% to 20% import tax for products or services that are sold back in the US.

The Coffee Roasters would dissolve the IRS and the Federal Reserve Board. According to the Roasters, both agencies no longer reflect the realities of the 21st century and have become abusive or elitist in their authority. Coffee Roasters also envision a simple 20% flat federal income tax for a family of three or more earning over $40,000 a year (no tax with family incomes under 40K).

Regarding America’s energy policy, Coffee Roasters believe that the United States can only alleviate most forms of terrorism against us by weaning ourselves off our massive Middle East oil addiction with an intelligent program of domestic renewable energy infrastructure development. Coffee Roasters believe that until our Middle East fossil fuel addiction is “sobered,” the US will continue to experience terrorist acts against Americans.

Additionally, once America is no longer dependent on Middle East oil, the Coffee Roasters think the US should remove our military bases from most countries and cease the highly suspect invading and overthrowing of oil rich countries and countries who don’t want US multinational corporations to control their economy.

Then, Coffee Roasters would like to see the massive tax savings realized from a reduction in unnecessary and unwise overseas military expenditures be used to fund a single payer universal health care system in America. But rather than implement a government-run program, the funding agent would be an independent non-profit agency designed and managed by a consortium of private health care providers, public health administrators, private health insurers, public health planners, and educated consumers.

Finally, Coffee Roasters in America promote their own global economic competitiveness by mandating bi-lingual education for their children and believe it should be core curriculum in the US -- beginning in elementary school. Moreover, Coffee Roasters believe all public education should re-incorporate the sensible teaching of secular science, the three R’s, music and art, as well as physical education, and competitive sports. Religious education should primarily be the domain of private schools, the Church, and home.

My research indicates the Coffee Roasters are here in Hays County. However, they are not easily identifiable. They are most likely a neighbor who is building smaller, more energy efficient homes and driving energy-efficient automobiles, borrowing and consuming less, maintaining banking services using credit unions and local banks (rather than the fee-abusive national banks), and perennially donating a percentage of their annual income to the needy and less fortunate.

Rocky Boschert has resided in Wimberley since 1993. He is a member of the board of trustees of the Katherine Anne Porter School (KAPS) in Wimberley. Mr. Boschert owns and manages Arrowhead Asset Management.

Monday, December 28, 2009

$ky-high Property Taxes: Are we still under British colonial rule?


"No taxation without fair representation!"


Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net, to Mr. Stern at pstern@austin.rr.com, or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

Editor's Note: As the 2009 tax year comes to a close, and a new one begins, it is always good to remind ourselves and our elected officials at all levels (candidates included) that the responsibility of managing the public purse is a big one. By itself, taxation is not an egregious taking of the people's money. It is only when the taking, the waste and the cronyism becomes excessive that we must call the system, and our public officials, to account. One needs to look no further than our county courthouse and state Capitol to find plenty of waste and cronyism. Politicians who promise, "I will reduce your taxes!" are often the same politicians who play loosest with our money or plunge us head long into development schemes that result in . . . higher taxes. Let us resolve that we will watch with sharp eyes as the 2010 election season rolls into view.

By Peter Stern
Guest Commentary

How soon we forget . . .

It was only a few hundred years ago that American colonialists were pressured into breaking away from their mother country due to harsh tax laws. It wasn't an easy decision for the citizens to consider forming into a young nation without retaining ties to England.

Taxation is not a new idea. Tax structures have been prevalent since ancient times. Taxes represent a transfer of wealth from citizens of a society to the ruling class of that nation. Taxation was noted in the Bible, in which tax collectors were hated with passion. Almost anything may be taxed and there are many methods to apply taxation.

History first documents tax records applied back in ancient Egypt, where taxpayers were expected to provide a significant portion of the agricultural produce they cultivated from lands to the ruling class.

The Romans created the first known toll tax for using roadways. Traveling on Roman-built roads was a privilege of those who could afford to pay the designated toll tax. Apparently, some things never change.

In our society today, no one – NO ONE – can explain honestly and intelligently why in a depression/recession of this magnitude, with ongoing job losses, long-term unemployment and ever-increasing home foreclosures, along with a treacherously crumbling housing/real estate market, that appraisal values continue to escalate dramatically.

In fact, appraisal districts seem to feel entitled to raise annual appraisals without real justification.

Not only is the property tax system illegal as is, it is an infantilizing, inadequate and financially oppressive system – much as the one forced upon American colonialists by King George of England.

Here in Texas, for many years Governor Rick Perry and members of the legislature have diverted various and significant fiscal state responsibilities onto local county and city governments, who then are motivated to increase property taxes on their residents. Governments of other U.S. states have done the same. It is clear that "History repeats itself."

Those in power today seem to have forgotten that the United States of America emerged from England's oppressive taxing structure via a revolution. Other nations, e.g., France, have done the same. Unfair taxation and an overburdened population were the primary reasons that the colonies rebelled and broke-away from British rule. Apparently, some things never change and those in power seem to forget the lessons history tries to teach us.

The current property tax systems unfairly overburdens U.S. citizens. It is only a matter of time before "the backs" of taxpayers are fiscally broken. Our rulers are blind to that fact. Will it take another revolution to highlight the need for expedient resolution?

Peter Stern of Driftwood, Tx, is a former director of information services, university professor and public school administrator. Mr. Stern is a Disabled Vietnam Veteran and holds three post-graduate degrees.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


Good cheer to all!

Monday, December 21, 2009

PEC to host forum to consider revision of bylaws, creation of member bill of rights


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 21, 2009

TO: All PEC-area newspapers

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


Pedernales Electric Cooperative is inviting its members to a forum on Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2010, to discuss the ongoing effort to consider revisions, updates and improvements to the Cooperative’s bylaws.

The meeting also will include a discussion of a proposed, first-of-its-kind member bill of rights, to be included in the bylaws. The event will be from 6 to 9 p.m. at PEC’s E. Babe Smith Headquarters Building in Johnson City.


The event will include a presentation regarding the legal and policy considerations that arise from possible revisions to the bylaws. PEC’s bylaws establish rules for Board conduct and for membership in the Cooperative, providing guidelines on a wide range of topics, including meetings, Board elections and qualifications for membership.

The member bill of rights could potentially establish a list of core member rights that could not be changed without a member vote.


Members at the forum will have the opportunity to make comments and fill out a feedback form. PEC’s Board will take that feedback into account as it considers what changes to implement. PEC encourages input from members prior to the forum as well. Members may e-mail suggestions or comments to Bylaws@peci.com, or mail them to:


Pedernales Electric Cooperative, Inc.

Governance, Bylaws and Legal Committee

P.O. Box 1

Johnson City, Texas 78636-0001

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What's in Your Water? Many Hays water systems show contaminant levels above health guidelines


Editor's Note: We appreciate the great public service provided by this report from The New York Times. It covers public water systems all over the country, including 48 water systems in Hays County. We've excerpted the findings below for some of the local systems and provided links for the details. Wish we had the time to check with each of the 48 suppliers listed in the report, and apologize in advance if the findings are not completely accurate or have been brought up to standard since the report's publication. Better safe than sorry, though. Seeing this bouquet of contaminants in our local water supplies [how do you even pronounce monochloroacetic acid] certainly adds new meaning to the old saying, "there must be something in the drinking water!"

Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net, click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story, or call your local water supplier if you are concerned and want to follow up


Published Thursday, Dec. 17, 2009
By the New York Times

"The 35-year-old federal law regulating tap water is so out of date that the water Americans drink can pose what scientists say are serious health risks — and still be legal. Examine whether contaminants in your water supply met two standards: the legal limits established by the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the typically stricter health guidelines.

The data was collected by an advocacy organization, the Environmental Working Group, who shared it with The Times."

Go to this link to check the water quality and contaminant levels of your local Hays County supplier: http://projects.nytimes.com/toxic-waters/contaminants/tx/hays

Here's what was found in some of our local water systems, large and small:

Texas State University, serves 28,215 people.
1 contaminant below legal limits, but above health guidelines. 11 contaminants found within health guidelines and legal limits.
http://projects.nytimes.com/toxic-waters/contaminants/tx/hays/tx1050003-southwest-texas-state-university

City of San Marcos, serves 41,700 people. 14 contaminants found within health guidelines and legal limits.
http://projects.nytimes.com/toxic-waters/contaminants/tx/hays/tx1050001-city-of-san-marcos

City of Kyle, serves 5,190 people.
1 contaminant below legal limits, but above health guidelines.
http://projects.nytimes.com/toxic-waters/contaminants/tx/hays/tx1050002-city-of-kyle

City of Buda, serves 2,400 people. 1 contaminant below legal limits, but above health guidelines.
http://projects.nytimes.com/toxic-waters/contaminants/tx/hays/tx1050012-city-of-buda

City of Wimberley wsc, serves 4,839 people.
1 contaminant below legal limits, but above health guidelines.
http://projects.nytimes.com/toxic-waters/contaminants/tx/hays/tx1050018-wimberley-wsc

Plum Creek Water Co., serves 3,882 people.
4 contaminants below legal limits, but above health guidelines.
http://projects.nytimes.com/toxic-waters/contaminants/tx/hays/tx1050028-plum-creek-water-co

Cedar Oaks Mesa wsc, serves 645 people.
2 contaminants below legal limits, but above health guidelines.
http://projects.nytimes.com/toxic-waters/contaminants/tx/hays/tx1050031-cedar-oak-mesa-wsc

County Line wsc, serves 2,337 people.
2 contaminants above legal limits. http://projects.nytimes.com/toxic-waters/contaminants/tx/hays/tx1050038-county-line-wsc
Serves 2,337 people

Hill Country wsc, serves 1,893 people.
2 contaminants above legal limits. http://projects.nytimes.com/toxic-waters/contaminants/tx/hays/tx1050113-hill-country-wsc

Cimarron Park Water Co., serves 2,031 people.
1 contaminant below legal limits, but above health guidelines.
http://projects.nytimes.com/toxic-waters/contaminants/tx/hays/tx1050059-cimarron-park-water-co-inc

Skyline Ranch Estates wsc, serves 168 people.
2 contaminants below legal limits, but above health guidelines.
http://projects.nytimes.com/toxic-waters/contaminants/tx/hays/tx1050078-skyline-ranch-estates-wsc

Goldenwood-West wsc, serves 387 people.
1 contaminant below legal limits, but above health guidelines.
http://projects.nytimes.com/toxic-waters/contaminants/tx/hays/tx1050081-goldenwood-west-wsc

Radiance wsc, serves 93 people.
1 contaminant below legal limits, but above health guidelines.
http://projects.nytimes.com/toxic-waters/contaminants/tx/hays/tx1050075-radiance-wsc

Sierra West subdivision, serves 25 people.
1 contaminant below legal limits, but above health guidelines.
http://projects.nytimes.com/toxic-waters/contaminants/tx/hays/tx1050134-sierra-west-subdivision

Woodcreek Utility Co.-2, serves 1,410 people.
1 contaminant below legal limits, but above health guidelines.
http://projects.nytimes.com/toxic-waters/contaminants/tx/hays/tx1050039-woodcreek-utility-co-2

Woodcreek Utility Co.-1, serves 2,079 people.
7 contaminants found within health guidelines and legal limits.
http://projects.nytimes.com/toxic-waters/contaminants/tx/hays/tx1050037-woodcreek-utility-co-1

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

In county survey, citizens vote for growth management, conservation and protecting water


Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story


By Bob Ochoa

RoundUp Editor


Two months ago, a Hays County community survey was circulated seeking citizen input to help set the course for future planning and development. The results are in. County officials were kind enough to share them with the RoundUp.

It looks like this is the closest we're going to get to the voice of the average citizen – in one neatly wrapped package. So, county commissioners and other officials, here's what the people you represent and serve are saying. Please listen up, and tell your big contributors and favorite special interests to stand aside for awhile. Let's get some smart planning and execution going for Everyone sitting at the table, the sooner the better.

One of the big bell ringers in the survey was the response to the question, where should Hays County focus its resources. Of the options listed, the top three vote-getters were Managing Growth (318 agreed strongly and 173 agreed), Conserving Natural Resources (318 agreed strongly and 177 agreed), and Protecting Water Quality and Quantity (374 agreed strongly and 145 agreed).

Right below those three were: Protecting public health and safety, improving roads, helping existing businesses, business recruitment/development, and providing public transit options. The least favored choice was expanding housing options.

Six hundred citizen/residents (give or take a few) responded to the survey, a disappointingly low number, but still enough we think for a pretty solid sampling of attitudes and opinions. The age range of respondents was: 18-34 years of age, 14.5%; 35-49, 32.3%; 50-64, 41.3%; 65 or over, 11.9%.

49.7% of the respondents said they live in the city limits of an incorporated city and 50.3% in unincorporated areas. Of the city dwellers, 7 reported living in Austin's city limits, 2 in Village of Bear Creek, 29 in Buda, 1 in Chaparral Park, 2 in Driftwood, 21 in Dripping Springs, 1 in Hays, 59 in Kyle, 22 in Mountain City, 95 in San Marcos, 4 in Uhland, 1 in West Sierra Circle, 30 in Wimberley, and 23 in Woodcreek.

Below are highlights of the rest of the very interesting results.


How many years have you lived in Hays County?


Less than 2 years, 6.1%; 2-5 years, 19.7%; 6-10, 21.2%; 11-20, 25%; more than 20, 28.1%.


Why do you live in Hays County?


The top three reasons: Hill Country/natural environment, Rural character, and Good place for families. Next two: Location/proximity to Austin, Schools and Recreational opportunities. Least of all reasons: Job opportunities.


Some of the comments:


"Close to big city convenience (Hospital-Shopping) without big city annoyances."
"Small town, safe environment, friendly."
"Culture, music, art, food, people."
"San Marcos River."
"Clean air."
"Housing prices."
"Tolerant culture."
"Having property."
"Retired."
"I moved here 17 years ago so I could be in a more country like atmosphere."
"Home safety."
"Church family."
"Originally wanted country atmosphere, however, that is very quickly disappearing. Still less hustle and bustle than Austin."
"LESS EXPENSIVE HOMES."
"Springs, community and there's still a chance it might not get ruined like so many other places around here."
"Can't afford to live in Austin where I work."
"University."
"Great Sheriff's Department."
"Connection to friends."
"Artistic community."
"Better air quality."
"Wife's home state."

"Quality of life/lower crime rates."
"Many clubs and activities to join."

Please rank the following issues in order of priority
(rank 1 thru 11):

Water quantity and quality – 235/88/57/34/23/25/26/17/11/9/17
Road improvements – 68/83/50/51/62/56/38/24/39/26/28/
Parks and open space – 34/109/62/52/50/54/49/38/21/36/23

Sheriff – 28/28/55/63/61/67/51/50/29/40/39

Emergency management – 7/18/49/61/91/72/68/61/35/37/14

Fire/EMS – 25/63/87/77/77/62/61/31/33/9/7
Property taxes –
82/64/59/59/55/46/61/24/28/20/27
Affordable health care – 12/22/40/51/35/54/55/92/75/64/36.

Senior services – 6/16/18/20/28/41/49/102/124/69/61
Housing affordability – 15/23/24/32/32/42/43/53/80/133/64

Public/rail transportation –
45/23/45/35/25/21/29/38/39/67/187

What do you think are the most important things to consider and address as this process moves forward?

Comments only:

"Solutions NOT Studies."
"Roadway improvements to connect Hays County to Austin. The "Y" in Oak Hill needs to be improved and SW45 from IH35 to 290West needs to be constructed."
"Protecting resources and severely limiting growth."
"The taxes for Dripping Springs are way too high . . . the School needs to tighten their belt (NFL Football field)."

"Keeping our rural feeling and managing growth to insure water and waste disposal is available. You can't approve more and more subdivisions and try to scare folks already here into severe conservation."
"Forward thinking about the lifestyle and environment. Promotion of rain water harvesting, home energy savings, solar power, etc. Travis County has Hays beat hands down in this area."
"Don't waste taxpayer money."
"Never will be able to satisfy everyone. Voters elected the officials to govern by their styles, so govern."
"Deciding whether we are going to use our assets intelligently or squander them . . . The rivers, hills and other natural assets must be made more attractive and tourism business cultivated. Escaping the mediocrity of our education systems and employment opportunities."
"That the government would stop thinking that just because some loud people who already live here and don't want anyone else to live here is right."
"New businesses. I was disappointed to find out that Alamo Drafthouse was not coming to Springtown Mall. That would have been amazing for our city."
"Keep it rural except for I 35."
"Over-regulation by the County is going to drive business away."

"Unlike our Congress, Hays County should listen to the people."
"The county should continue to cooperate with all of the Cities and rural areas on concerns."

"Achieving a collaborative, realistic, long-term vision (can't manage high growth in a hodgepodge fashion)."
"Doing the right thing and taking the politics out of it. All issues are important but you can't give them justice when you put politics above everything trying to get re-elected. All commissioners and the judge are guilty of this. It's time to stop and go to work. Then we can make this process work."

"Please keep industrial companies from moving near my neighborhood."

"The Sheriff and DA have lost focus on community service. They have just become bullies."

"Water companies. Aqua Texas is a joke of this county and people are refusing to move into the areas that Aqua Texas services."
"Improving public schools."

"Really need to address growing young families population in Wimberley and surrounding areas and providing places to go/things to do (parks, trails, safe teenage hangouts)."
"We need to be watching to make sure that elected officials do not serve special interests to the detriment of the residents of the city and county."

"Recognize different points of view, ie, old-time ranchers vs. developers, water quality and availability."
"Although I would like the county to stay as it is, that's not possible. We cannot stop growth, nor should we try. We should plan for it though."
"Protecting the environment, insuring open spaces for our children, the poor."
"Over-development will ruin what makes Hays County a draw and will not adequately recoup the tax dollars that will go to building the infrastructure to support the development."

PEC Board receives year-end report from GM, honors employees


The Board also heard a report from the Governance, Bylaws and Legal Committee about a revised time line for changes to the Cooperative’s bylaws and the possible implementation of a member bill of rights


Note: The press release has been edited for length

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 15, 2009
TO: All PEC-area newspapers
MEDIA CONTACT: Anne Harvey, (830) 868-4933; Austin line, (512) 219-2602


Pedernales Electric’s Board of Directors held its regular monthly meeting Dec. 14 at PEC headquarters, where it received an extensive year-end summary from Cooperative General Manager Juan Garza, honored 23 long-time employees and completed other business measures.

Garza’s year-end report began with statistics regarding the Cooperative’s efforts to address recommendations made in a 391-page report submitted to the Board in December 2008 by Navigant Consulting, Inc.

Last year Navigant conducted an independent, eight-month-long investigation of PEC business practices, covering the 10-year period from Jan. 1, 1998 to Dec. 31, 2007. Garza reported that to date, PEC management has addressed 94 percent (128 of 137) of Navigant’s recommendations and has actually implemented 63 percent. Garza said Cooperative management plans to address the other recommendations in 2010, while also working to implement the other 31 percent already addressed.

Other 2009 PEC accomplishments outlined by Garza include:

- The implementation of a new rates structure and line extension policy after completion of an extensive, independent cost of service study.
- Submission of an operating budget and a capital improvement plan for 2010. The budget represents a first for PEC.
- Implementation of a more stringent travel and business expense reimbursement policy.
The establishment of open records, open meetings, conflict of interest and whistleblower policies.
- The dissolution of Texland Electric Cooperative, leading to PEC recovering more than $565,000 from the defunct venture.
- Elimination of unnecessary consulting contracts, saving the Cooperative about $1 million annually.
- Merging the operations of Envision Utility Software into PEC.
- Conducting servant leadership training for all PEC employees.

After Garza’s report, the Board passed a resolution honoring current PEC employees who have been with the Cooperative since it separated from the Lower Colorado River Authority at the end of 1978. Management’s research led to 23 employees remaining from that time, leading to the resolution in recognition of the employees.

During the member comment portions of the meeting, members remarked on several issues, including capital credits, single-member voting districts, the Cooperative’s employee performance bonus system, the role of Board committees, and the Board’s recent decision to distribute members’ names, addresses and voting district information upon request to Board candidates.

One member repeated a call for the Board to address speculation regarding the relocation of PEC’s headquarters, which District 5 Director R.B. Felps later addressed by presenting a resolution for Board consideration stating the Board “has no plans to relocate the Cooperative’s headquarters,” which the Board unanimously approved.

The Board also heard a report from the Governance, Bylaws and Legal Committee about a revised time line for changes to the Cooperative’s bylaws and the possible implementation of a member bill of rights. The committee reported that information regarding the changes will be posted soon to the PEC web site, and the committee will hold a public bylaws forum Jan. 13, 2010, at PEC headquarters.

In other action at Monday’s meeting, the Board:

- Ratified an advisory panel of six members approved by the Board’s Energy Conservation and Renewable Generation Programs Committee. The panel will report ideas and suggestions to the committee.
- Approved a resolution authorizing Garza to negotiate, execute and deliver agreements for software products, and consulting, training and maintenance services related to the Cooperative’s LINKS project.
- Amended the Cooperative’s privacy and open records policies to account for the new member list distribution policy. The Board also modified the distribution policy to allow for electronic distribution of information.
- Received a report given by Leadership and Employee Development Manager Steve Lucas on the Cooperative’s improved safety performance, reflected by reduced lost-time, personal injury and vehicle accidents as of the end of November when compared to performance in 2008.
- Approved performance bonuses for employees based on PEC’s Board-developed evaluation system.
- Approved an amendment to the Cooperative’s contract with Bridgepoint Consulting that will save PEC about $16,500 based on changes to the scope of services the firm will provide. Bridgepoint primarily provides internal auditing services to PEC, but the amended contract will provide for assistance from the firm to evaluate PEC’s proposed operating budget, as well as the Cooperative’s payment card industry compliance, while suspending work on an inventory audit.
- Voted to retain the services of Monica Schmidt, a consultant with the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, to assist the Board with governance issues and help ensure PEC’s practices are consistent with other cooperatives. Schmidt will attend the Jan. 13 bylaws forum.
- Approved moving the regular February Board meeting from Feb. 15 to Feb. 22 to avoid a scheduling conflict.

The next regular Board meeting will be held at 10 a.m. on Jan. 19 at PEC’s E. Babe Smith Headquarters Building in Johnson City.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Rose makes rare appearance at HTGCD meeting; is it too little, too late?


Taking big campaign contributions and instructions from special interests, Rose has steadfastly refused to introduce legislation needed by HTGCD to fulfill its mandate

Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net, to Mr. O'Dell at codell@austin.rr.com, or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

By Charles O'Dell
Contributing Editor
State Rep. Patrick Rose
Statesman.com

Representative Patrick Rose (D) has attended only one Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD) board meeting during his seven years in office. You might say that Representative Rose was eventually forced to attend this one. After all, Rose has been catching flack from all quarters, particularly from the folks who are concerned about dwindling groundwater and their failing water wells.

Rose appeared at the HTGCD board meeting to unveil his latest hastily contrived political move – something he’s calling a Stakeholder Driven Process for Legislative Change. A crowd of about twenty-five was present at the Thursday night Dec. 10 board meeting held in Dripping Springs City Hall. Significant skepticism seemed to float through the air.

Comments ranged from, “This won’t work,” to, “This is just political cover to get you past the March primary election.” One community leader from Wimberley chastised Rose, saying, “You ignored a petition signed by 409 property owners supporting full Chapter 36 authority for HTGCD.”

Trouble in Roseland

Rose, who’s three-county District includes the HTGCD territory, is in big trouble with voters who’ve been looking to their elected groundwater board members for management of the Aquifer as mandated by state law. Instead of supporting the HTGCD, Rose has placed roadblock after roadblock in the way of the board’s efforts. Taking big campaign contributions and instructions from special interests, Rose has steadfastly refused to introduce legislation needed by HTGCD to fulfill its mandate.

A recent report by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality makes it clear why the HTGCD board has been asking Rose for changes:

“…the Hays Trinity GCD is not authorized to exercise the full authority of Texas Water Code, Chapter 36. Predominant statutory prohibitions that challenge the district’s ability to function are its limited source of revenue and more liberal well exemptions than provided by TWC, §36.117.”

All of that could change if Rose would deal with the water issue. But Rose hasn’t been willing to help. Worse yet, Rose has historically been silent about who was pulling his strings on water issues. Now, however, he’s launched his much ballyhooed “stakeholder driven process.” His stakeholder list has been revealed and the cat is now out of the bag.

The process that Rose and sidekick Andy Sansom launched at the eleventh hour during Thursday’s board meeting remains sketchy at best, but the list of special interests is as clear as it could be. Here, for example, are some of the players who showed up on their list:

San Marcos and Austin Boards of Realtors,
Wimberley and Dripping Springs Chambers of Commerce,
Hays County Builders Association,
Texas Farm Bureau
Real Estate Council of Austin

The “stakeholder driven process,” might give Rose something to talk about when he comes under attack from critics, but he may find that his eleventh hour solution is perceived as just another effort to fool voters. For years, Rose would tell people that there are some “players he still had to bring to the table.” It was his standard response when constituents asked why he wouldn’t help the groundwater district. When pressed to identify who the “players” were, Rose would simply say that he couldn’t reveal the names. Now the list is out.

Stayed tuned. Rose’s eleventh hour launch of the Stakeholder Driven Process for Legislative Change may turn out to be the story of the year. At a minimum it’s the story of a young man desperate to be re-elected.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

FM 1626: Hollywood, Ballywood, and mostly Bull


The public hearing held by TxDOT Tuesday night was simply a staged event to give Barton the opportunity of pumping up his Pct 2 road supporters, knowing that there would be no visible work on FM 1626 that voters could see by the primary in March

Jeff Barton
Note: According to county officials, the 1626 expansion, as currently planned, will cost federal, state gas and county taxpayers an estimated $100 million – with a lot of pork n' fat in the mix. Very unfortunate how it has all transpired, and a poor example of leadership from Pct. 2 Commish Jeff Barton, who has put himself on the hot seat and is now trying his best to wiggle free. As Mr. O'Dell has noted, the awards for political theater will be handed out in the primaries in March, when you can vote for your favorite actors.

Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net, to Mr. O'Dell at codell@austin.rr.com or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

By Charles O'Dell
Contributing Editor

Billed by TxDOT as a Public Hearing concerning proposed improvements to FM 1626 from RM 967 in Hays County to Brodie Lane in Travis County, the Dec. 8 Tuesday night meeting turned out to be a not-so-disguised political rally that at times took on the look and feel of an old time religious revival with the Reverend Jeff Barton presiding.

“I want everyone in support of this project to stand up, raise your hands and say ‘Fix 1626.’” Up jumped about 250 of the estimated 325 in attendance and with hands raised above their heads, shouted, “Fix 1626.” Then, Reverend Barton asked everyone to sit down and to drink more of the strange looking kool aid called political theater. Barton’s supporters drank it up.


Whether you believed it was just a required TxDOT public hearing, a rally to push the FM 1626 road expansion project forward, or a subversion of the State election ethics laws by an undeclared Barton campaigning for county judge, you would be correct but still have missed the big picture.


Most of those attending the meeting had a predisposition to trust what elected officials say in public, and tunnel vision predicated on a daily desire to escape commuter rush hour traffic, making the political theater Tuesday night a grand and rewarding experience in shifting previous expectations and keeping false hope alive. But there is a lot more to this story.


Hays County was one of very few jurisdictions throughout all of Texas that bought into Gov. Perry’s Pass Through Financing for state roads, a trick that creates double taxation with local property taxes and encourages expensive over-designed roads. (You can thank Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley for that. He loves to boast that he personally invited the Pass Through sleight of hand to Hays County).

Our Hays County officials went even farther and agreed to work on federal highways funded with our local road bonds. What had been achieved through political theater financed with the public purse, was being undone by TxDOT excesses, changing public attitudes, and a global economic recession. Something had to be done.


The Right Reverend Barton promised road bond voters in 2008 that work would begin promptly on FM 1626, and when pressed for how long that would be, said within a year. Now thirteen months has turned into a minimum of two or three years at best.


All the political actors were at the TxDOT event Tuesday night at Elms Grove Elementary, including current TxDOT Austin District Engineer, Carlos Lopez, P.E.. Lopez smiled and waved when introduced. Even Lopez’s predecessor, Bob Daigh, came in for praise. Daigh retired from TxDOT last year and Williamson County immediately created a job for Daigh at the same salary he was paid at TxDOT.

Williamson County is where Mike Weaver’s Prime Strategies had helped to engineer a half billion dollars in road bonds before Hays County hired Weaver as its “transportation consultant,” and paid him tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars. Prime Strategies came in for its share of praise for guidance in getting the over-designed FM 1626 included as a TxDOT Pass Through project.


There was a bevy of public officials in attendance, many running for reelection. Included were commissioners Barton and Conley, District Attorney Sherri Tibbe, an aide from Rep. Patrick Rose’s office who Barton asked to read the names of about sixty high profile individuals who had written letters to TxDOT supporting the 1626 project, Senator Wentworth’s Chief of Staff, Joe Morris, County Judge Liz Sumter, Mike Gonzales who recently resigned as mayor of Kyle to run for Barton’s Pct 2 commissioner position, and many other public officials who had previously run for office, who have recently announced their candidacy, or who are expected to announce in early January 2010 to avoid the “resign and run” law.


Not everyone was on the Barton bandwagon or sat by passively.


The public comment segment began with a parade of public officials being handed the microphone to express their support of this road project and to heap praise on the event organizers – Barton, Conley and others. When it came time for the “public” to speak, a TxDOT employee held the microphone like a tether for control. Finally, one public speaker asked the obvious question, “Why were the elected officials handed the microphone and we aren’t allowed to hold it?” TxDOT relented and speakers thereafter regained some dignity and control.


Before the TxDOT portion of the meeting began, I noticed a sign standing at the back of the room that read: “Pct. 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton, www.voteforBarton.com.”

I walked over to Barton and asked him if this was a political event and pointed out his sign. This was the same sign Barton had used as seen in the photo published in his family newspaper with “6 lanes coming” hand painted on the back. A bit flustered, Barton told me the sign wasn’t political and when I assured him it was he professed not to have brought it. To keep Barton out of trouble I walked over and turned his sign around to face the wall. Following a brief discussion across the room between Barton and some fellow, who then approached me to say that he had brought the Barton sign, not Barton.


The upshot of the public hearing was that it will be another 16 – 18 months of project review by federal agencies before construction can begin if the project is approved. The failed promise Barton made to voters during the 2008 road bond election was blamed on TxDOT, the feds, and Austin City Council who pointed out the proposed expanded 4 – 6 lane 1626 highway in Hays County would converge at the Travis County line into an existing two lane road that is not budgeted for expansion, and that the SH 45 link to MoPac is off the table. That was not a message Barton supporters wanted to hear.


It was suggested once again in public comment that a better plan would be to purchase the full right-of-way and then expand FM 1626 into a three lane road with strategic right turn lanes that research shows will facilitate 17,000 vehicles per day. TxDOT reported traffic on FM 1626 had increased from 12,800 vehicles per day in 2004, to 13,800 in 2008. If that rate of increase were to continue, a three lane FM 1626 would peak out about 2020, at which time the road could be easily widened within the existing ROW.

TxDOT projects 20,400 vpd in 2024. But that projection doesn’t take into consideration thousands of homes that won’t be built on the Dahlstrom Ranch where development rights have been purchased by Hays County, the City of Austin and others; or long-term economic recession recovery projections; the proposed commuter rail, and changing driving habits already reflected in reduced vehicular mileage data.


The public hearing held by TxDOT Tuesday night was simply a staged event to give Barton the opportunity of pumping up his Pct 2 road supporters, knowing that there would be no visible work on FM 1626 that voters could see by the primary in March. Barton’s Democrat Primary strategy depends on the voting demographics in the 2008 road bond election.

He must hold his Pct. 2 and Pct. 1 commuter voters with an FM 1626 rally, and compensate for his failed “Daniel’s gun law” with a proposal of using our Open Space and Parks bond money to purchase a track of land for concurrent use as Endangered Species Habitat Conservation and a shooting range. Barton knows U.S. Fish and Wildlife will never approve such an action but it gets him past the upcoming March primary election. That explains the pressure Barton is putting on the commissioners’ court appointed citizens parks advisory team (CPAT) to recommend such an action.


You can’t attend just one thinly veiled political meeting staged as a TxDOT public hearing and expect to recognize that you are being manipulated. There is always a bigger picture.

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 board president of the Ethical Society of Austin.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

1626 public meeting was less public meeting and more road-building pep rally


Note:
We received this commentary late last night following TxDOT's public meeting on the planned FM 1626 expansion. Coming later, a report from RoundUp contributing editor Charles O'Dell. We agree wholeheartedly with the writer's point about it being time to think of new approaches to traffic congestion and gridlock. These are the kinds of questions we should be asking our elected officials and candidates. The same old solutions to the same old problems, we already know, will lead to the same old new problems of sprawl, pollution, higher debt and higher taxes.


"Got anything new to offer, bud?"


Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

Well, the packed house tonight at the Elm Grove Elementary School was more like a road-building pep rally, not a public hearing. This actually had the feel of a planned campaign event for Barton and Conley and some of the other pro-road/development folks running for office in the Buda area put on by the fine folks at TxDOT at taxpayer expense! Although this was not billed as a campaign event, a Barton campaign sign was spotted in the hall. Nothing like pulling off a multi-purpose event and I guess it pays to have friends at TxDOT.


Not once was the obvious word, "bottleneck" uttered, despite the nifty little maps they gave out showing that this 7-lane monstrosity would end abruptly at the Travis County line, not even making it as far as Brodie Lane. I can only imagine the scene: thousands of cars racing along the newly-engorged 1626 only to slam on their brakes at the county line . . . and wait for the light to change.


I guess the point is to cause the world's largest traffic jam as people try to get out of Hays County on 1626 and somehow force Travis County to build a road big enough to let the Hays Hordes through those neighborhoods along Brodie who already tried to put up a roadblock to keep them out. The return voyage to Buda should prove to be just as much fun.


Now, if the Buda area would concentrate its efforts on building an employment base closer to home, or steer development nearer to existing roadways and routes to Austin or even to consider other ways to spend transportation funds rather than just more roads, we might begin to see something successful. More of the same will not work, but the road engineers are still unwilling to train for new careers and so they come up with the same ol' tired ideas every time.


Building roads is never the answer to gridlock, it never takes long for those new roads to lock up just like the old ones. Perhaps it is time to take a real look at inter-city transit systems, a real bus line, some car-sharing programs, some low-impact solutions, and not just keep lining the pockets of road companies and their politician-shills like Barton.


Our transportation future needs to be one with a diversity of options, but we will not be able to afford anything but our road debts if these politicians keeps doing the bidding of the road barons.

– Majesta

Monday, December 7, 2009

Public Hearing on FM 1626 expansion project in Buda, Tuesday night at 6 pm


Editor's Note:
Waste of the taxpayer's money, and overkill – not an improvement in mobility – will be the lasting legacies of FM 1626 if it is transformed into an 82-foot wide 5-lane
super commuter road, with continuous left turn lane, serving primarily northeastern Hays County. The case has been made that without the expansion of SH 45 from MoPac to 1-35, a super-sized 1626 will only result in a giant, faster bottleneck at the Brodie and Manchaca intersections.

Hays County officials recently received a letter from Travis County Commissioners requesting that the 1626 plan be downsized or reworked since, in its current incarnation, it will not mesh with Travis County's transportation plans.

Hello left hand, meet your right hand. Please.


Well over a hundred thousand dollars has been paid to Hays County's road bond consultant on this project. In our view, it's been a waste of good money, unless of course one considers political 'pay back' a good investment of our taxes.


Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net, to County Judge Liz Sumter at lizsumter@co.hays.tx.us, or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story


Pct. 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton was out pimping big roads
after passage of the '08 road bond. Today he's got a hot potato
on his hands with the 1626 project up in the air in his precinct.

Photo clipping is from Barton's family newspaper, the Free Press

From S.O.S. News:

Beginning at 6 pm tomorrow night, Dec. 8, at the Elk Grove Elementary School in Buda, TxDOT will hold a public hearing to discuss plans to expand FM 1626 from FM 967 to Brodie Lane. Elk Grove Elementary School is located at 801 FM 1626.

While the expansion of FM 1626 is being proposed as a safety and mobility project, the project should raise serious concerns for residents on 1626 and Brodie Lane dealing with commuter traffic. The project will funnel even more high-speed, pass-through traffic into these neighborhoods and on to the recharge zone of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer.

We urge folks in Travis and Hays Counties to attend the hearing to learn more about the project and to voice their concerns. For more information about the hearing, and to view the draft Environmental Assessment ("EA") for the project, click here: http://www.dot.state.tx.us/public_involvement/hearings_meetings/fm1626.htm

Given that the EA for this project has only recently been made available online, we will be asking for an extension of the comment period, which is currently set to run out on December 18. If you attend the public hearing, please speak up in favor of a 30- to 60-day extension so that the public has adequate time to review the EA and provide meaningful input.

Dunn says 2 new driveways on 3237 are his, to serve future commercial development


But here's the kicker. During the course of describing his real estate work up in the northwest . . . Mr. Dunn uttered the words "conservation easement."


Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story



Paul Dunn's new commercial driveway on 3237, a short distance north of the Wimberley bypass

We've been wondering what the two new driveways are all about, now nearly completed, along 3237 just to the north and south of the Wimberley Mills Parkway, the bypass. Luckily, we bumped into local and Montana resident and developer Paul Dunn a short while back out at one of the sites, and got the scoop straight from the horse's mouth. We say luckily, because it appears that Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley (R-Wimberley) and county road chief Jerry Borcherding had no clue, or wouldn't say. Conley was not considerate enough to return our calls to his office. Jerry said he'd check but never got back.

Mr. Dunn was friendly and very open about the new driveways. Said they were TxDOT-approved, so no need for county involvement, and they will provide access to two pieces of his property for commercial development. The bigger one (photo above) is 15 acres at the southeast base of Dunn's Pinnacle Ridge gated subdivision, and the smaller one just to the south of the bypass is 3.5 acres. He said he plans to sell the properties for commercial/retail businesses, just not yet. And they will both include a strict land use covenant.

The smaller parcel was part of a 5-acre tract, with a long 1.5 acre easement being sold to the county for $20,000-plus that will eventually serve as a hike and bike entrance to the Blue Hole Regional Park. Mr. Conley is reported to be working on that deal.

We completely missed asking about water supply, but figure Dunn's future commercial sites will be on wells – that is, if they are able to get the permits. Mr. Dunn said straight out he was not a big fan of the local private, for profit water supplier, those ghastly wasters of groundwater – and said they would need his permission to expand their service territory on to his 100-odd acres along the bypass. Not gonna happen, he promised.

But here's the kicker. During the course of describing his real estate work up in the northwest – purchasing big ranches, restoring them and putting them back on the market, intact and undeveloped – Mr. Dunn uttered the words "conservation easement." The very controversial Lone Star subdivision that Mr. Dunn once proposed building along the bypass, with 119 homes, wells and septic systems
, and a stone's throw above Blue Hole, seemed to have receded quietly into history.

At the time, Dunn's proposal and presentation drew a throng of protesters at a Wimberley P&Z public meeting. We recall one placard being waved around in the audience that read 'I Askew, is this a Dunn deal?'

On this recent afternoon, Mr. Dunn chafed at questions about resurrecting his subdivision plan. He said not having an approved subdivision plat would leave open the option of perhaps selling the mostly pristine property as a conservation easement. The right price along with some tax breaks, he said, could help him at least break even on his investment in the property.

We don't know how many folks know of Paul Dunn's unfolding vision for his property along the bypass. But his thinking of a kinder, gentler fate – a conservation easement of all things – sure was news to us. Protecting this land from future development would provide a crucial buffer zone on the north side of Blue Hole, and perhaps expand the size and recreational possibilities of Blue Hole Regional Park.

Hays County and city officials, Friends of Blue Hole, and Hill Country Conservancy might want to give Mr. Dunn a shout and see if you can take this invitation to turn a dream into reality.

We thank Mr. Dunn for sharing.



– Bob Ochoa/Editor

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Voters beware: Perry, TxDOT continue their love affair with toll roads


TxDOT continues to do what it wants with little regard to the wishes of most Texans NOT to develop more toll roads


Latest projects begin to close ring around Hays County

Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net, to Mr. Stern at pstern@austin.rr.com, or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

"So let me get this straight. You built toll roads because we have too many people and not enough room on the freeways. You had to pay for these extra roads so you implemented the new roads as toll roads. Now there are too many people on the toll roads so let’s get them off of these roads by jacking up toll fees…What did I miss???"
– politicsoffthegrid/houston

By Peter Stern
Guest Commentary


Despite Governor Rick Perry's promise to remove the Trans-Texas Corridor and additional toll roads from future plans, the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) intends to build 37 toll roads in the San Antonio area of which 18 will be owned and operated by foreign companies. Voters should be aware of this as Perry campaigns for reelection.
Houston
Go to this link for a list of the projects:
http://www.texasturf.org/

In addition, despite promises by the Texas Legislature to reign-in the renegade state agency and require more oversight on future road plans, TxDOT continues to do what it wants with little regard to the wishes of most Texans NOT to develop more toll roads. Instead of working for the community good, TxDOT continues to exploit tax dollars for its own political agenda.

One of the things Texans can do to remove the increasing push for toll roads is to contact TxDOT and legislators to stop the mega-plans for future toll roads and to use the gasoline tax revenue, which was created to build and maintain Texas roadways. Unfortunately, the legislature continues to divert 40 percent of this revenue to other special interests. Furthermore, the governor and legislative officials maintain a freeze on fuel taxes without insisting on an annual cost of living adjustment (COLA) to those taxes.

Email the local Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) at sabcmpo@sametroplan.org to demand the removal of toll roads and CDAs (contracts that hand-over our TX roads to foreign toll operators in 50-year sweetheart deals!) from its plans; to use traditional gas tax funding NOT privatizing and tolling Texas roads as its source of funding for these projects; to NOT vote for ANY plan with toll projects and/or CDA's in it.

Email legislators to demand a halt to toll roads and the exploitation of taxpayers for political agendas and special interest pandering.

Contact Texas Senators: http://www.senate.state.tx.us/75r/senate/members.htm

Contact members of the Texas House of Representatives: http://www.house.state..tx.us/members/welcome.php

Consequently, Texans must act quickly to demand a halt to TxDOT's exploitation and its push to develop private roadways for only the wealthy who can afford to pay to use them. It is a reality that up to 80 percent off-the-top of toll revenues will go to the companies building and maintaining the toll roads and the state contracts with private toll companies have a 50-year clause, which ensures that our children and grandchildren will continue to pay these toll taxes to use roadways.

It's time to demand a more open, responsible and ethically run TxDOT and state government.

No more special interest toll plans and CDA deals.

Peter Stern, a former director of information services, university professor and public school administrator, is a disabled Vietnam veteran who lives in Driftwood., TX.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Effort to remove judge from PEC case fails


Read the whole story here: http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/2009/12/02/1202pecmills.html?cxtype=rss

Austin American-Statesman

By Patrick George

pgeorge@statesman.com

AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Wednesday, December 02, 2009


State District Judge Dan Mills will continue to preside over a criminal case
involving former Pedernales Electric Cooperative executives despite being a member of the co-op, a visiting judge ruled last week.

Attorneys for the former PEC officials argued that Mills stands to benefit
financially if restitution is ordered in the case. Now, they intend to ask the 3rd Court of Appeals for an opinion on visiting state District Judge Robert "Bert" Richardson's decision, in an effort to overturn it and force Mills' removal.

The decision was the latest step in pre-trial hearings in the case led by
the state attorney general's office against former co-op General Manager Bennie Fuelberg and former co-op lawyer Walter Demond.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Government center builders schedule meet 'n greet for subcontractors


Note: Figures of between $90 million and $100 million-plus have been bounced around as the price for the county's new government center. County commissioners have cut the contract, so there's no stopping it now. In a recent phone interview with County Judge Liz Sumter, the judge promised that taxpayers (due to smart budgeting and prior down payments) will not suffer a tax increase to pay for the federal government-looking monolith. We'll take the judge's word, too, that when it's all said and done, the building will include lots of green energy-saving features.

Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story


From a Hays County media advisory, dated Nov. 30, 2009:

Balfour Beatty Construction cordially invites all subcontractors and vendors to an informal meet and greet surrounding their recent project win, The Hays County Government Complex. Balfour Beatty Construction has partnered with HDB to provide complete design/build service for this impressive new facility for the citizens of Hays County. This a great opportunity to come and learn more about the project and the contracting opportunities that will be available in the Spring of 2010.

4:30-6:30 pm
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Embassy Suites, San Marcos
1001 E. McCarty Ln, San Marcos, Tx

For more information contact:
John T. (Tommy) Campbell, Operations Director (w) 214-451-1234 or (c) 214-437-9611
Don Hanson, Senior Project Manager (w) 972-937-9334 or (c) 214-701-4777
Brent Johnson, Project Manager, (w) 972-937-9334 or (c) 214-355-6728

Guns, Prop 2 and Hays County Politics


A shooting range located over the Edwards Aquifer or its contributing zone would be asking for a legal challenge. Using Prop 2 funds would be double legal jeopardy for Hays County officials


Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net, to Mr. O'Dell at codell@austin.rr.com, or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

www.tex-american.com/ gun-range-cleanup.html

Note: A ten-member advisory committee has been appointed to recommend the best site for a shooting range/complex in Hays County. So far, the most mentioned location is on the Dahlstrom Ranch near Buda, a 2,200-acre spread overlying the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards Aquifer that is said to contain many significant & sensitive groundwater recharge features. At last report, the ranch was being acquired as a conservation easement for $9.9 million in a partnership between Hays County (utilizing parks bond money), the City of Austin, the Hill Country Conservancy and the National Park Service. Members of the advisory committee include Stephen Marlow, Tomas Mijares and Richard Gillespie of San Marcos; J.B. Kolodzey and John Sanford of Buda; Herman Waters, Willy T. Ribbs, Mark S. Bennett and Gary Conner of Dripping Springs; and Charles "Chuck" Catt of Wimberley. Funny thing, we don't see any names of women on the list.

By Charles O'Dell, Ph.D.

RoundUp Contributor


Shooting ranges have practical and recreational value and should be funded by gun interest groups and private enterprise, not with any Hays County bond money. Despite what our Hays County Assistant District Attorney - Civil Division (previously known as Hays County Special Counsel) might advise, use of Proposition 2 funds for construction and/or operation of a public shooting range would be tested in court.


Shooting ranges preferably should be located indoors. If outdoors, then in non-water quality sensitive and non-wildlife habitat areas, and far, far away from any other human activity. Here is just one example why.


“In June of 2003, one of Potomac Riverkeeper’s members reported the problem to the Riverkeeper. Visits to the site revealed that piles of lead shot were six inches deep in some areas.
On February 25, 2004, Potomac Riverkeeper filed a civil suit against DNR (Maryland Dept. Natural Resources) for violations of the Clean Water Act and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act. They asked DNR to clean the lead pollution out of Great Seneca Creek. Potomac Riverkeeper and DNR agreed to select an environmental consultant to perform a risk assessment for the area.

"The results of the assessment proved that the lead pollution was damaging to Seneca Creek and the wildlife around it. Groundwater beneath the firing area had concentrations of lead that were 4,000 percent more than the ecological screening value to protect aquatic life and 667 percent more than the EPA’s action level for drinking water to protect human health.”


A shooting range located over the Edwards Aquifer or its contributing zone would be asking for a legal challenge. Using Prop 2 funds would be double legal jeopardy for Hays County officials.


Again, shooting ranges have practical and recreational value and should be funded by gun interest groups and private enterprise, not with Prop 2 money. In the citizen-driven Hays County Parks and Open Space Master Plan (updated 2006), Facility Priority Summary, financing of shooting ranges isn’t even remotely hinted. Nor was there any suggestion of any special interest projects included in the 2007 parks and open space bond:


PROPOSITION 2
 “THE ISSUANCE OF $30,000,000 OF HAYS COUNTY TAX BONDS FOR PARKS, NATURAL AREAS, OPEN SPACE, AND RELATED PROJECTS, AND THE PRESERVATION OF WATER QUALITY, AQUIFER RECHARGE AREAS, AND WILDLIFE HABITAT, AND THE LEVYING OF A TAX IN PAYMENT THEREOF.”


Clearly, the bond’s explicit language, “…the preservation of water quality, aquifer recharge areas, and wildlife habitat…,” means the weasel wording, “…and other related projects…,” together with the County’s Parks and Open Space Master Plan, wouldn’t pass the legal test for using bond funds to finance a shooting range that goes against the expressed intent of citizens and of Prop 2.


Many of the 2007 bond voters are disillusioned by how much of the parks and open space bond money was spent on special interest projects instead of public projects for which voters were led to believe the funds would be spent. Only a self-serving politically driven elected official could make the stretch that the 2007 bond language allows for a special interest shooting range, or that any public expenditure for this or any other special interest group project could be in keeping the public trust as expressed in the Parks and Open Space Master Plan.


There are also common sense and fairness lines to be drawn. If Prop 2 money were to be spent on a shooting range (notwithstanding subsequent legal expenses), then why not for paint ball and archery ranges, ATV and bike tracks, or any other special interest activity benefiting a select group of citizens? Parks are open to all citizens. Open space benefits everyone.


Better that commissioners’ court heed the advice of those they appointed to advise them on such matters and property owners who pay for the court’s spending. Or they can continue to create citizen advisory committees to provide political cover for the court, and then disregard the sound advice given to the court.


Let’s leave shooting ranges to gun groups and private enterprise. No freeloading on the public purse and the on the backs of taxpayers.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009





We're going to take a leave for a couple days. Y'all have a good one!

Send us a note if anything interesting comes up.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thoughts on politicians, Piranha and the public interest


We need skilled individuals who will address the public interest first to run for office. Otherwise, the Piranha among us will devour our community

Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net or to Mr. O'Dell at codell@austin.rr.com, or click on the "comments" button below the story


Note: It's interesting that the opening of deer hunting season is just a month prior to the official opening of candidates filing for public office at the local and state levels. We're expecting that there will be a large herd of incumbents and challengers vying for our hearts and minds for offices ranging from Hays County Clerk to County Judge to State Representative. This commentary from Mr. O'Dell is timely because it gives us pause to once again spend a little time reflecting on lessons learned from elections past, the candidates and their promises. Sometimes its easy to pick out the best deer in a herd, sometimes not. We imagine it would be a lot more challenging selecting the friendliest little public office hopefuls from a school of piranha. Here's wishing a happy campaign hunting (and fishing) season with all its merry sifting, sorting, darting and dodging.

By Charles O'Dell, Ph.D.
RoundUp Contributor

Driving past Austin Memorial Park Cemetery the other day brought to mind a reflection that every one of us is heading in that direction. Such a sobering thought brought into sharp focus the importance of making the most of life’s journey.

While each of us begins as a tabulae rasae (with a blank mind before it receives the impressions gained from experience), we are also hard wired by evolution, just as all other species of Nature are, except that our specie also harbors ego and intellect.


We are not the swiftest, strongest, or oldest specie – but evolved with unique features that give extraordinary capabilities to the most average of us. How we use those capabilities define our life’s journey.


All men and women are created equal in the eyes of our Constitution, but we are not all equal in life.


Each of us has two lives – a life within and an external life, or the way we behave. Our external life manifests our inner life, and that’s why the impressions gained from our experience – the stuff that forges our values –are so important in making the most of life’s journey.


Life can be likened to a card game. DNA deals us the hand to play, but our values determine how we play that hand. Our values are not what we say they are, but are revealed in the external life we choose to live.

What better example of this than elections. More often than not, candidates claim to have values that belie their behavior. They claim to be honest, to have integrity, to be qualified for the position they seek and deserving of public trust. They promise to make us proud.

Few however deliver, because what they want more than serving in public office is the authority and control that makes them feel important in their eyes and in the eyes of their supporters. They squander public money, rewarding their special interest supporters; they use money taken from thousands who struggle day to day, and build grand edifices for themselves, leaving behind long-term debt for others to repay; they spend hundreds of millions of dollars on State and U.S. highways while our county roads continue to deteriorate; and they engage in destructive political games to raise themselves up by pushing their political opponents down.

Which Hays County elected officials do you believe exercise the courage and skill to serve the public interest first and their self-interests last? There are Piranha among us who feed on the citizens of Hays County.

Dry wells, home foreclosures, lost jobs, closed family businesses; helter-skelter growth, government waste, special interests, favoritism, and selected enforcement of our laws are not conditions of a sustainable community or economy. These problems can be solved.


Our neighbors’ problems are our problems – unless we choose not to care. We need skilled individuals who will address the public interest first to run for office. Otherwise, the Piranha among us will devour our community.


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 board president of the Ethical Society of Austin.