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Friday, May 29, 2009

Update from a commenter re: our water problem: Add desertification to the mix


Editor's Note:
Scroll down to the story "Silent Springs" from which this very alert comment from Ms. Burgin was taken. What she says certainly adds more cause for reflection about whether we're all moving forward in our water AND land management with eyes wide open, and utilizing the latest and best science available. Contact Ms. Burgin at alyssatexasclimate@gmail.com, or go to this web site: http://texasclimateemergency.org/

Alyssa Burgin said... Everything said here is true, and developers are to be held accountable, and so are the politicians who thrive on their offerings.


That said, however, I can't believe that this article ignores the desertification process that is taking place in Texas – according to prominent scientists like Richard Seager of Columbia University, and Ron Sass right here at Rice University. This is not just about developers or greedy politicians, it's about the forces of climate change. The consequences of unchecked climate change will result in a continuation of what scientists are calling "permanent perpetual drought," which is what a big chunk of Texas is already experiencing. To ignore that issue is tantamount to suicide for Central, West, and South Texans.


Map shows areas of increasing and decreasing rainfall. In spite of increasing rain in the western U.S. desertification is increasing since warmer temperatures tend to dry the soil creating more run-off that can’t recharge aquifers.

Source: USDA, October 2006

____________________________________


UPDATE Monday, June 1, 2009
. . . actually a 'Backdate' from the Dallas Morning-News April 5, 2007 edition:

See the full story here: http://www.kvue.com/news/state/stories/040507kvuedustbowl-eh.360faebb.html

Dust Bowl-like drought projected

02:46 PM CDT on Thursday, April 5, 2007
By RANDY LEE LOFTIS / The Dallas Morning News
rloftis@dallasnews.com

Texas almost certainly faces a future of perpetual drought as bad as the record dry years of the 1950s because of global warming, climate scientists say in a study published Thursday.

The trend toward a drier, hotter southwestern United States, including all of Texas, probably has already begun and could become strikingly noticeable within about 15 years, according to a study led by Richard Seager of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Drought conditions are expected to resemble the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s and Texas' worst-ever drought of the 1950s, Dr. Seager said. Unlike those droughts, however, the new conditions won't be temporary, the study found.

"This time, once it's in, it's in for good," Dr. Seager said.


Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory

A map shows the projected drought area, with darker colors noting more severe effects.




PEC watchdogs all a-twitter over grand jury probe of co-op


Well, the good news is that PEC will have a new Board of Directors, all a-brim with fresh ideas and good intentions before the next Grand Jury meeting


Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net,
to Mr. Collins, collindave@hughes.net, or to Mr. Langston, langston@zeecon.com

Editor's Note: PEC grassroots reformists at pec4u.org are having a field day over the grand jury investigation of our electric co-op's alleged past mismanagement, malfeasance and good ol boy corruption, among other topics. Here, former PEC employee and writer extraordinaire Dave Collins, and Paul Langston (both sons of the Hill Country) weigh in on state Attorney General Greg Abbott's possibly dubious handling of the case. Of course, the big question for all 200,000 co-op member/ratepayers is: Will Abbott deliver fair-handed justice, not influenced by politics and big-time contributors? Follow this link to join the PEC watchdog discussion group: http://pec4u.org/?page_id=69

Guest Twitterers

From Dave Collins
As a preface to this comment, I want to make very clear that I am no fan of AG Abbott and view his record while AG as being poor, at best, when viewed from the perspective of a working citizen of Texas.

Regarding commentary about the pace of the Grand Jury; while it is obviously frustrating, the one-meeting-per-month schedule of the special Grand Jury impaneled to hear evidence in the PEC case is the standard for all Grand Juries in Blanco County and, I think but do not know with certainty, elsewhere in the state. It is not at all uncommon that a Grand Jury will stretch out over considerable time, particularly in a case in which fairly complex issues - like conspiracy and fraud - are on the table. Dealing with a burglary, DWI or assault is much simpler, obviously.


That the state prosecutor continues to present evidence is, actually, a positive as it seems to increase the likelihood that Sen. Fraser's prediction about indictments will prove true and that similar scuttlebutt attributed to the "legal circles" of Austin will be born out, as well (RIP Clark, Thomas, Winters).

From Paul Langston
Thanks a bunch for your comments on the speed of this Grand Jury in Blanco County. We may not be fans of AG Abbott but he certainly has a lot of good friends and at last count they had sent in about $13 million dollars for his re-election.

You certainly remember that our County Attorney Sam Oatman sat on this for about a year in his Llano office. I remember that you had a lot to do, e-mail, telephone calls and letters, with getting Sam to turn the case back to the AG. Dave, I am one of a group of old codgers and I hope that we will live long enough to see the outcome of this Grand Jury.


You indicate that the Grand Jury set up a schedule at the beginning, to meet once per month on the 27th day or is it on the forth Thursday of the month? If we call the Court House, can we ask what day the Grand Jury will meet? There must be quite a chore to round up all those people and have them there for that meeting. This set schedule allows the Newspaper folks to be present?


Well, the good news is that PEC will have a new Board of Directors, all a-brim with fresh ideas and good intentions before the next Grand Jury meeting.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

From today's Statesman: Nine more testify in Pedernales co-op inquiry


Send your comments to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net
or to Ms. Grisales,
cgrisales@statesman.com

See the full story here: http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/05/28/0528pec.html


Austin American-Statesman, http://www.statesman.com/

By Claudia Grisales

AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Thursday, May 28, 2009


JOHNSON CITY — Nine people with ties to Pedernales Electric Cooperative, including a state Capitol lobbyist, appeared Wednesday before a special Blanco County grand jury looking into possible criminal violations by former co-op officials.


Curtis Fuelberg, a lobbyist and brother of former longtime co-op General Manager Bennie Fuelberg, entered the Blanco County Courthouse room where the grand jury was meeting and exited about eight minutes later.


A review of Pedernales' books last year uncovered $510,000 in unexplained payments to Austin law firm Clark, Thomas & Winters. The firm has said the payments were linked at least in part to money paid to Curtis Fuelberg and William Price, son of former co-op Director E.B. Price.


The elder Price also appeared before the grand jury Wednesday; his son met with the panel previously.


"I'm cooperating fully with the investigation and can't really discuss it more than that," E.B. Price said before entering the grand jury room. He served a brief term as president of the board after the resignation of W.W. "Bud" Burnett in early 2008.


Wednesday's session — the fourth since the special grand jury was impaneled in February — was the busiest yet.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Six reasons why community water should not be for-profit



Based on a general historical analysis, it can be argued convincingly that municipal or district water utilities are overall more responsive, more reliable and more cost-effective than for-profit private or publicly-traded water companies

Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net
or to Mr. Boschert, arrowbiz@austin.rr.com


Editor's Note: The RoundUp wishes to thank Rocky Boschert for his column (an abridged version) which supplements nicely the debate now furiously circulating about our water crunch in western Hays County, and what to do about it. Here, Mr. Boschert lists several good reasons why not to look to private for-profit water companies as part of the solution. It should be an easy read for county and city officials as they also grapple with this critical and time sensitive issue.

By Rocky Boschert

According to watchdog website “Food and Water Watch” (www.foodandwaterwatch.org), from which I borrowed some of their good research and text, here are 6 reasons (edited down from 10 reasons) why private companies – especially publicly-traded water corporations – should not be in the business of running community water systems:

1. Lack of Accountability
We have just gone through almost thirty years of creeping “free markets” privatization in most sectors of the economy, with the phenomenon accelerating irresponsibly in the last decade. Fortunately, regulatory oversight on Wall Street and corporate boardrooms in general is again getting much needed attention. Yet hidden in the background are the publicly-traded water companies tactfully remaining under the regulatory radar. Add in the convenience of private water companies doing business in an anti-regulation state such as Texas, the net effect is that private water companies can generally dictate their own regulatory destiny.

Directly stated, since water corporation executives are first and foremost accountable to their stockholders – and not to the people or communities they serve – they often operate with comparatively unchecked power. Some companies operate by cherry-picking small, vulnerable service areas, going after contracts with unincorporated or new communities who don’t have the legal, financial or organizational resources to later challenge the water companies in court or through the state regulators once the contracts are in place.

2. High Rates and Bad Service
Another reality raised in the researched global water management data is that private or publicly-traded water corporations almost always charge more than municipalities for both water and wastewater services. The data shows that privately-managed, for-profit water often costs as much as 65 percent more than municipal or non-profit water. Private sewer service can cost up to twice as much as public sewage service.

Additionally, in their effort to find ways to increase net profits for shareholders and to compensate top level company management, private water corporations often cut corners to increase profits. To squeeze out profits, private water corporations may use inferior construction materials, ignore or stall needed maintenance, or downsize the company workforce – all of which can impair quality water delivery to customers in the company’s service area. Such neglect can hasten equipment breakdowns and increase replacement costs, which the public ends up paying for once again with more rate increases and/or a degeneration of service. With most contracts, private water operators can technically comply with their contractual obligations while effectively shifting upkeep costs to the public.

3. Private vs. Public Financing.
In the case of the design and construction or expansion of a community’s water service, private sector bond financing is generally much more expensive than public sector financing. Even with top-rated corporations, the underwriting and funding of new corporate bonds are 25 percent costlier than municipal bonds. As a result, private companies are forced to charge more for their increasingly expensive water (due to their higher borrowing and underwriting expenses) through on-going rate increases


4. Profits and Taxes.

Private, for-profit water companies pay income, property and other taxes. Government controlled water utilities generally do not. As a result, in order to achieve profit margins promised to shareholders – management typically seeks at least a 10 percent profit on their investment – rate increases or service reductions are the easiest way to look good to shareholders and Wall Street analysts.

In total, corporate profit margins, bond and stock dividends and income taxes can add 20 to 30 percent to operation and maintenance costs, which in turn is passed on to customers through rate pricing. Comparatively, since government utilities generally pay no local or state property taxes, these cost savings can be reflected through constrained rate inflation.

Private water utilities also tie higher earnings to increased costs. Since they try to set a fixed rate of return on investment (ROI), they may spend more on the water system so a higher profit can be obtained. Of course, since increased costs have to be paid for somehow, any added expenses to the company are again passed on through customer rate increases or customer service compromises.

5. Contract Expenses
The preparation to contract with a private water firm can easily set a city back over $100,000 at minimum. Also, responsible monitoring of a water corporation’s contract performance can cost as much as 20 percent of the contract. In total, contract monitoring and administration, conversion costs, charges for extra work and the contractor’s use of public equipment and facilities can add up to 25 percent to the price of a contract. Cost overruns and eventual contract termination fees also can inflate the price of a private water management service.


6. Lack of Competition

One of the most risky sides of contracting with publicly-traded water companies is the fact that the water market is rarely competitive at the local level. Consequently, since access to credit during the current recession has become very limited, funding for the water infrastructure sector faces increasing difficulties. As a result, at the national level we will probably see more industry consolidation (mergers and acquisitions), resulting in a further monopolization within the water sector. Moreover, the credit crunch, along with the neglect of the nation’s current water infrastructure over the last couple decades, may make water corporations feel a more urgent need to merge with others so they can have greater access to capital to finance improvement projects.

In essence, if a local water monopoly’s profits can be manipulated due to a lack of market competition, the company can effectively minimize community responsibilities – and customers may have no room to negotiate. In the end, the community could get stuck with expensive contracts and unresponsive corporate management.

The Bottom Line

Based on a general historical analysis, it can be argued convincingly that municipal or district water utilities are overall more responsive, more reliable and more cost-effective than for-profit private or publicly-traded water companies. Since water is a life sustaining resource, we must guard against the trend of water being subject to the whims of entrepreneurs and corporations who by their legal and operational nature care more about their capital gains and profits than the quality of the water and the service required to effectively and efficiently maintain the water system.

In many ways, a community’s access to clean and affordable water is even more crucial than a good health care system and sustainable energy solutions. Our children and our communities need to be guaranteed the right to clean water and affordable access to water. And parents need to know they can rely on their local elected officials to make choices that benefit the community first.

In the end, it is probably best if the delivery of community water is not at the center of the debate for how a corporation can meet or not meet quarterly earnings estimates – so the CEO can keep his job and please institutional investors. Wall Street, when mixed with water, will more than likely leave a sour taste in the community.

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.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Notes from a Texas Patriot: Bury the Trans-Texas Corridor


The TXDOT reauthorization bill is HB 300. The bad bills that the people have to defeat to nail the coffin shut on the Trans-Texas Corridor are SB 17 and SB 404


Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net
or to david@texas-patriot.com

Editor's Note: Mr. Van Os is a San Antonio attorney. He distinguished himself as a candidate for Texas Attorney General in 2006 by traveling across the state, visiting all 254 Texas counties during his campaign. He has been a leading critic of the Trans-Texas Corridor project and corporate greed and corruption generally.


Guest Commentary

By David Van Os


For all of you Texas patriots who have upraised your voices for the last three years against Slick Rick Perry's plans to sell off our public highway system to private interests so they can stuff their bloated pocketbooks with billions of dollars in predatory toll fees while devastating hundreds of thousands of acres of good Texas earth in massive land grabs - IT HAS COME DOWN TO THE NEXT FOUR DAYS.

The 2009 legislative session is nearing its end. The Texas Department of Transportation is facing legislative sunset this year. Various bills have passed one or the other of the two Texas legislative chambers, the Senate and the House, to reauthorize TXDOT's existence under different competing sets of values.

Which will it be - democracy of the people, or despotism of the greedy?
In some of the pending versions of transportation legislation, the public will would finally be honored with the long-sought elimination of the Trans-Texas Corridor and the democratization of the Texas Transportation Commission. I want to take this opportunity to express special commendation for Rep. David Leibowitz, whose labors against the toll-building robber barons and the anti-democratic TXDOT bureaucrats are on the verge of success with the potential final enactment of his bills into law.

In other versions of transportation legislation, the use of private contracts to build and operate massive toll roads, particularly TTC-69 through the heart of East Texas, would be re-authorized. In one particularly ugly bit of backroom chicanery, a deal is already made to grant the building and operation of TTC-69 to a private company from Spain. We have been fighting the same spectre for years now, but as we know, the greedy don't give up easy.

I
t appears probable that the competing "value systems" will face off in House-Senate conference committee action on Tuesday, May 26. Long hours, days, and years of hard work for many thousands of grassroots Texans who have been fighting for democracy in Texas transportation planning may come down to making sure the legislators hear the voice of the people loudly and clearly over the next four days.

The TXDOT reauthorization bill is HB 300. The bad bills that the people have to defeat to nail the coffin shut on the Trans-Texas Corridor are SB 17 and SB 404. The latter bills would re-authorize CDAs (comprehensive development agreements); in other words, sell-out deals to put billions of dollars in toll fees into private pockets for operating toll roads that the people of Texas do not want.

If you want to do your part to make sure the people are finally rewarded with victory in this fight, CALL your Texas House Representative and your Texas Senator today through the Capitol switchboard at (512) 463-4630 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Tell your Representative and your Senator, or their staffs, you are against SB 17 and SB 404 and anything else that allows comprehensive development agreements in highway construction. Tell them you expect them to GET RID of the Trans-Texas Corridor for good and to GET RID of private toll road development for good. Tell them you want a democratically elected Texas Transportation Commission.

We the People have been speaking for a long time. We want democracy, not corporate-governmental oligarchy. Now let's bear down. Two years ago some of the legislators who had pledged to support the people's will wavered at the finish line. This time we can't let them waver. Let them hear our voices in this moment of truth. NO private contracts for toll roads, NO Trans-Texas Corridor, NO comprehensive development agreements, and YES to a democratically elected Texas Transportation Commission.

Friday, May 22, 2009

An open letter from Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development


Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net
or to JRMcMeans@msn.com

Editor's Note:
The Friendship Alliance has allowed the use of its auto-email software to send an email letter to both Rose and Wentworth under your name. Click here to share your considered thoughts with your elected representatives in Austin.

To date our State Legislators, Representative Patrick Rose and Senator Jeff Wentworth, have been unresponsive to the needs of our area to help our locally elected groundwater district, the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, have reliable funding and sufficient oversight to manage our limited groundwater and protect our wells from going dry. There is still time for these elected officials to attach the compromise bill favored by the HTGCD as an amendment to another bill already out of committee.

The Friendship Alliance has allowed the use of its auto-email software to send an email letter to both Rose and Wentworth under your name. Please open the attached link, insert your name and address and email, and add any comments you wish. Then click on "Send Email" and your letter will go to both elected officials. We need to flood their offices with hundreds of email letters and hope they see the light and take action during the remainder of this legislative session. Please take action, send your letter, and PLEASE forward this communication to your friends who care about protecting our precious groundwater for our future. Thanks. Jim McMeans

Our groundwater, and the bipartisan do-nothing duo Rose and Wentworth


Bottom line, 'we're
all getting shafted'


People get tied into knots over the money side of things, and end up ignoring how the stampede of cattle aren’t stopping or turning, and we’re actually oblivious how they’re running right over us



Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net

or to clayeewing@gmail.com


*Read the comments or add your own by clicking on the "comments" button below the story.

By Clay E. Ewing

Representative Patrick Rose’s recent efforts, along with Senator Jeff Wentworth, to provide funding for the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (GCD) without further taxation, is the preferred goal of all of us, but it would appear that a $2 surcharge on all water users might not be a bad way to go, but besides penalizing so many already penalized by Aqua’s rates, it doesn’t adequately address the long-term needs of water conservation in the region.

But, let’s ignore this for a moment, and concentrate on the more fundamental aspects of this equation. People get tied into knots over the money side of things, and end up ignoring how the stampede of cattle aren’t stopping or turning, and we’re actually oblivious how they’re running right over us.

One of the last drafts of the GCD legislation left to die, already included the 25,000 gallon stipulation; had removed the part about officials gaining access to your land without your prior permission; and would only affect wells drilled after this June. It would have gained partial funding from new well permitting fees, fees that would scarcely raise the price of the finished well, much less have affected your existing well.

As for the current annual budget: that’s an amount reflecting volunteer labor, with volunteer meaning the same here as what we do for charitable organizations: free and as the person is available. This would not be a business model for effective, long-term results. Perhaps how government officials are supposed to be—volunteer and part-time—but not necessarily the way to effectively monitor a vital natural resource.

These particular volunteers are professionals at what they do, and they can’t afford to work full-time for the GCD when their paying job is elsewhere. Yet, many of them do put in full-time hours because they know this is not a short-term issue, but a multiple-lifetime concern, and the ground work needs to be set and policies for the future put into place.

I wonder, instead, if this unfunded, unstaffed approach, might be an example of keeping a girl barefoot and pregnant: it gives them little time to reflect on the condition of their life, and whether that life is being used for high value, even though recompensed as though valueless. Are the various entities opposing full vestment of Chapter 36 trying to prevent another layer of government? That layer is there, but unable to fully function due to the lack of funding, so is that really what they want?

Even this funding source will end in two years, which means what will be an ongoing effort will suddenly de-fund after only two years—and, remember, the funding is for research only, not so much to hire and pay professionals to do the job part-time volunteers are doing now—and we’ll be sitting next to each other trying to figure out how to do this all over again.

Only in two years, the issue will be two more years of critical. What Mr. Rose says is true: this is not a time to saddle anyone with more taxes, but I’m mystified by exactly what that means if everyone pays $2 per month for two years, rather than only those directly affected pay both for use and for the right to drill.

Perhaps I’m just being cynical, but it would appear this effort gets elected officials through the next election cycle, rather than adequately addressing a long-term issue that will present some of the most fundamental concerns for our growing population.

I’m chaffing under the high property taxes already, so it’s doubtful I would support any more taxes. But, since that’s not what’s going on here, fees and taxes being two very different things—taxes we pay on a regular basis, while fees are one-time—then I guess I’m concerned that for reasons that have little to do with the long-term welfare of our area, Chapter 36 is not getting fully vested, but you, me, and future generations, are getting thoroughly shafted.

Clay Ewing is a former op-ed columnist for the Texan Express (Goliad ’84-’86), edited a regional bicycling newsletter in South Texas (1990-2000), on-going blogger and writer of short stories, landscape and color abstract photographer. Mr. Ewing is a practicing Realtor in the Wimberley area.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Hays County Central Appraisal District – A crisis of mistrust; or the great taxpayer heist



If you were a public official with an operating budget based on property taxes and you oversaw an Appraisal District would you object to making up property values that kept your property tax-based budget afloat?


Send your comments and news tips to online.editor
@valleyspringcomm.net

or to codell@austin.rr.com


*Read the comments or add your own by clicking on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story.


Editor's Note:
Thanks to an alert reader who sent this link to a helpful site and video from the state comptroller's office on
how to present your case at an Appraisal Review Board (ARB) hearing: http://www.window.state.tx.us/taxinfo/proptax/index.html

By Charles O'Dell, Ph.D.

Show me a person in Hays County who believes our property values increased during the past twelve months and I’ll show you an elected official with an operating budget funded by property taxes. There is no reliable information Hays County Central Appraisal District officials can point to that show property values increased throughout Hays County over the past year, but that doesn’t stand in the way of increased valuations.

So how can that be? To gain an answer, start with the built-in bias of our property appraisal process.


The Hays Central Appraisal District Board (Hays CAD) is made up of seven directors elected by the governing boards of the taxing entities that participate in the appraisal district.


The County Tax-Assessor/Collector serves as a voting, member of the Hays CAD Board.

Daniel Guerrero —- Chairman —- City of San Marcos

Luanne Caraway —- Vice Chairman —- Hays County

Joe Castillo —- Secretary —- San Marcos Consolidated Independent School District

Dennis Miller —- Hays Consolidated Independent School District

Galen Dodson —- Dripping Springs Independent School District

Abel Tenorio —- Hays Consolidated Independent School District

Dave Williams —- Wimberley Independent School District


If you were a public official with an operating budget based on property taxes and you oversaw an Appraisal District would you object to making up property values that kept your property tax-based budget afloat? I doubt it.


CAD officials will admit that they ignore home foreclosure prices when determining property values, despite numerous studies showing there is a ripple effect on neighborhood property values related to a foreclose. Simply put, the presence of a foreclosed property has a negative impact on the sales price of nearby houses. Moreover, there’s no shortage of foreclosed properties in Hays County. The average during 2008 was approximately 100 per month.


Another imponderable tactic CAD officials used to appraise properties for 2009 was to lower improvement (home) values while raising the land values by a greater amount. The net result – higher property values - and higher taxes. It’s called slight of hand. It’s absurd.


You would expect HCAD to have some information or data to justify such a practice – some information or data that supports the notion that our home values declined while our land values increased. Wrong. HCAD doesn’t have the data. HCAD can’t produce the data. What nonsense!


Need more convincing that our CAD has run amuck?


Consider the strange case of who’s on first


In July 2006, a limited liability corporation (LLC) known as Wimberley Crossroads, LLC was created. The LLC purchased the Wimberley First Baptist Church (WFBC) property in a sweetheart deal for $1.350 million, paying $350,050 in cash and signing a promissory note for one million dollars.


What made this potentially one of the biggest sweetheart deals that Hays County had ever seen was Hays County Commissioner Will Conley’s involvement. Conley’s plan was to have the county purchase the property for $2.4 million and spend $600,000 more in rehabilitation costs. Why? Conley was pushing the church facility as a site for a joint government center to be owned by Hays county and the City of Wimberley.


Remember: The church property was sold to the LLC in 2006. But the LLC-owned property didn’t appear on the tax rolls for two years until June 2008. More specifically, the property didn’t appear on the appraisal tax rolls until - the day before Commissioner Conley convened a public meeting to promote his idea of a government center. Yes, property under serious consideration for purchase with our tax dollars by a County Commissioner who didn’t know the property wasn’t on the appraisal rolls until the day before a public meeting. So much for due diligence on the part of Commissioner Conley.


What’s on second


When the CAD finally appraised the LLC property on the day before the public meeting, its valuation came in at $1,977,720 – an amount less than the $2.4 million price Conley was pushing for taxpayers.


Less than six weeks later, attorney Michael Stevens who represented both seller and buyer in the original transaction protested the appraised value. The LLC was already on the hook for a couple of years of back taxes, and there was apparently a need to get that valued reduced. For you or me, something like that might be a difficult task, but not if you know how to go about it. Reduction requested; reduction made; done. The CAD Chief Appraiser personally lowered the tax value to the sweetheart deal price of $1.35 million.

I don’t know is on third . . .

Now our CAD increased the valuation to $1.94 million. That valuation is $600,000 higher than the $1.35 million, but still lower than the original $1.977 million value that was affixed just before Conley’s public meeting.


Commissioner Conley seems to have backed away from his effort to reward the LLC investors with a quick million dollar profit by county taxpayers – although we are hearing he may soon take another stab at his little scheme before the Wimberley City Council. Our CAD has also made a fairer, although belated appraisal, of the LLC property for tax purposes.


The antics that take place at the CAD should cause all of us to carefully review the preliminary valuation statements when we receive them in the mail. Any property owner who receives an increased appraisal value would be foolish not to protest that increase before June 1, 2009.

County Judge Sumter leads comprehensive plan for Hays


Bob Ochoa Photo

Members of the Hays County Strategic Policy Plan Steering Committee met Friday May 15 with more than 40 locally elected and appointed officials to kick off a countywide strategic planning process. The "Leadership Charette," as the gathering was called, was held at the Wimberley Community Center. County Judge Liz Sumter, second from left, has made it a top priority to complete a comprehensive planning guide for better coordination among governmental entities and more efficient use of taxpayer dollars. One participant remarked, "We should have done this a long time ago." The steering committee members will be assisting in a summer long process of information gathering, stakeholder meetings, and a final plan roll out in early September. From left are Chris Holtkamp, with the LCRA (chrisholtkamp@lcra.org), Judge Sumter (lizsumter@co.hays.tx.us), Whit Hanks of Dripping Springs (whit@whithanks.com), Susan Meckel, of Kyle, also with the LCRA (susan.meckel@lcra.org), and David Glenn of Wimberley, a member of the city's planning & zoning commission (david.glenn@vownet.net).

Sunday, May 17, 2009

From the Texas Observer: "Silent Springs – Is it too late to save Hill Country water?"


Dry riverbed.

According to the nonprofit watchdog Texans for Public Justice, State Representative Patrick Rose received nearly $300,000 in campaign contributions from real estate interests and developers from 2004 to 2008

"A report on the ’06 drought by Austin hydrologist Raymond Slade warns of the consequences of a far worse drought, which “will cause many more wells to become dry and probably result in many thousands of people in the County to be without water . . . "

Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net or to http://www.texasobserver.org/comments.php?aid=3047

See the full story in the Texas Observer online: http://www.texasobserver.org/article.php?aid=3047

Editor's Note:
Mr. Wilder attended Wimberley High School


By Forrest Wilder | May 15, 2009 | Features

Sixty feet below the shimmering surface of Jacob’s Well, an artesian spring that for thousands of years has pulsed iridescent blue-green water from the Trinity Aquifer to the surface, a sophisticated instrument measures the spring’s vital signs. The results are beamed almost instantaneously to the Internet.

These days the gauge detects only the thinnest of pulses.

On a hot April afternoon, David Baker, an artist turned conservationist, stands on the limestone lip gazing down into Jacob’s Well. Earlier, Baker had checked the spring flow: an anemic five gallons per second. “At that point, the spring has basically stopped flowing,” he says.

Old-timers recall—and spotty historical data confirm—that the spring used to have enough of a head to jet swimmers back to the surface after they cannonballed in. Today the pulse is barely a dying man’s heartbeat. In 2000, Jacob’s Well stopped flowing for the first time in recorded history.

Its source sapped, Cypress Creek came to a trickle in Wimberley, and the state added it to a list of streams with impaired water quality. “I think it was a big wake-up call for the community,” Baker says. “If the well is the canary in the coal mine for the aquifer, then the canary was choking and about dead.”

The spring ceased flowing again in October 2008. As this story went to press, it appeared Jacob’s Well had gone to zero a third time.

The cessations confirm what water experts have been warning: that Jacob’s Well is under immense stress from a development boom over the Trinity Aquifer, the primary source of water for much of the Hill Country.

The trouble is hardly limited to Jacob’s Well or the Hill Country. Groundwater scarcity is a looming crisis across Texas. Because of drought, overpumping, and the loss of natural recharge, state water planners estimate that groundwater available for pumping will decrease 22 percent by 2060. The state’s laissez-faire water laws and cumbersome regulatory apparatus have done little to help.

Conservationists see bad omens in what’s happening to Jacob’s Well and the Trinity Aquifer. Water is particularly fragile in the Hill Country, designated by the state in 1990 as a priority groundwater management area. In no other region of the state, perhaps, are groundwater and surface water so closely intertwined. The science is clear: If the aquifers decline, they take the springs, seeps, streams, rivers, and lakes with them.

“By continuing to increase our use of groundwater, we cut off the lifeblood of the Hill Country,” says Laura Marbury, a water policy specialist with the Environmental Defense Fund of Texas. “We’re trading off increased development for the flow of the creeks and rivers out there. And payback will be harsh.”

Jacob’s Well is tucked in an out-of-the-way corner of a semideveloped subdivision near the Hill Country burg of Wimberley, a one-time backwater of cedar-choppers and hardscrabble ranchers that's now giving way to suburbanization. No signs mark its location. I attended Wimberley High School for four years, visiting Jacob’s Well a handful of times, and still had a hard time finding it. As a sort of omphalos of the region, Jacob’s Well is not so much forgotten as obscured.

Its importance is undeniable, though. Locally, the spring provides the bulk of flow for Cypress Creek, an exquisite, bald cypress-lined stream that forms Blue Hole, one of the state’s top swimming holes. It was saved from residential development by the village of Wimberley and a local philanthropist in 2003.

“Jacob’s Well is Cypress Creek,” Baker says.

Cypress Creek, in turn, feeds the Blanco River—a shallow, flash-flood-prone stream with a fluted limestone bottom and majestic white bluffs flanking mostly undeveloped ranch land. During the drought of record in the '50s, Jacob’s Well kept the Blanco from drying up below Wimberley. The Blanco flows into the San Marcos River, which itself meets the Guadalupe River near Gonzales and rolls down to San Antonio Bay.

Conservationists and water experts stress the wondrous interconnectivity of surface and groundwater in Texas, especially in the porous Hill Country. Consider: At certain leaky spots, the upper Blanco disappears underground, slipping into the aquifer via a fault. The river may even follow the fault lines (geologists aren’t sure) east to the Cypress Creek watershed, providing flow to Jacob’s Well, which in turn pushes water into Cypress Creek and the Blanco River. Downstream, the Blanco River again “loses” water to the aquifer.

Adding to the system’s complexity, some of that Trinity water—about 64,000 acre-feet per year—moves underground into the Balcones Fault Zone portion of the Edwards Aquifer, the source of the perennial San Marcos Springs. Those springs are the headwaters of the San Marcos River, a main source for the Guadalupe River in times of drought.

Texas water law recognizes very little of this. As a drop of water moves between the ground and the surface, it passes through two different legal spheres. As surface water, it’s owned by the state but perhaps allocated, in the form of a water right, to a rancher, farmer, or city. As groundwater, it’s the property of the landowner.

Jacob’s Well confuses this artificial distinction. The spring is not just a headwater; it’s literally a spy hole into the Trinity Aquifer. Divers have mapped the underwater cave over a mile underground, pushing through a series of chambers deep into the limestone Cow Creek formation of the Middle Trinity. Eight have died in the pursuit of the unknown.

“Jacob’s Well is the expression of the aquifer on the surface,” Baker says. “What it’s indicating to us is that the whole system is stressed.”

Recent research suggests that Jacob’s Well is highly sensitive to pumping, especially in the recharge zone northwest of the springs, an area of small sinkholes (believed to connect to Jacob’s Well) and cedar-choked hills that developers are carving into residential lots. The main development is called The Ridge at Wimberley Springs.

“I think we’ve reached the limit, yet more homes are going in as we speak,” Baker says. “And that’s the dilemma.”

Since founding the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association in 1996, Baker has been fighting to keep developers from chewing up Jacob’s Well. At the moment, the watershed association is tied up in a lawsuit with a group that wants to build RiverRock, a “residential resort”—spa, “lagoon-style” pool, gourmet restaurant—a few hundred feet from Jacob’s Well. RiverRock wants to build a road through the Jacob’s Well Preserve. Baker hopes to stop the development altogether, claiming that it would pump 15 million gallons per year, which could have a direct impact on flows at the springs.

Baker is also at loggerheads with Aqua Texas, a for-profit water utility that serves Woodcreek, an incorporated subdivision of 1,500 people just south of Jacob’s Well. Last year, almost half the water Aqua Texas pumped from its main well was wasted because of crumbling infrastructure. Worse, when the company turns on the pumps at that same well, the discharge at Jacob’s Well drops a corresponding amount.

In 2005, the watershed group scored a victory by consolidating the four parcels of private land that abut the spring. With a $3 million grant from Hays County, the group is creating the Jacob’s Well Preserve, a 55-acre natural area that eventually will be open to the public.

This effort will be for naught if something isn’t done to manage the Trinity. Hays County is one of the fastest-growing counties in a fast-growing state. In 2000 the population was a little under 100,000; in 2060, it’s expected to reach 500,000. In the past few years, the county has been the scene of intense squabbles between anti-sprawl activists, drawn largely from the Wimberley area’s large retired population, and pro-growth interests. (See “Dateline: Hays County,” Nov. 14, 2008.)

Add water to the mix. The Trinity Aquifer, which is much less rechargeable than the Edwards, provides the vast majority of groundwater for the area. “There’s a lot of straws pulling from an aquifer that doesn’t have a lot to give,” says Ron Fieseler, the coordinator for Groundwater Management Area 9, which covers a swath of the Hill Country.

Geologists say pumping in western Hays has already passed the limit of sustainability. Computer modeling by the Texas Water Development Board predicts water-level declines during a severe drought of between 50 and 100 feet across the Trinity, including portions of Bexar, Travis, Kerr, Hays, Blanco and Bandera counties.

What would that mean? Hays County got a small taste in 2006. Drought, compounded by overpumping, left about 100 homes near Dripping Springs without water and reduced Onion Creek, which flows through Hays County and South Austin into the Colorado River, to a trickle. A report on the ’06 drought by Austin hydrologist Raymond Slade warns of the consequences of a far worse drought, which “will cause many more wells to become dry and probably result in many thousands of people in the County to be without water. Nobody knows when this will happen but it is likely to occur in the near future.” Onion Creek, he concludes, is likely to stay dry except when there’s significant runoff from storms.

Given this harsh reality, Baker says people in Hays County will have to decide whether to trade flowing streams and springs for growth. “It’s a hard conversation to have because no one wants to have limits to what we do,” he says. “But there’s a carrying capacity to these systems.”

Water watchers are keen to see what happens in western Hays County. It may hold clues to the future of the Hill Country. “Hays is the canary because it’s so close to I-35,” says Marbury, the EDF policy specialist. Many Hill Country communities are approaching the limits of sustainability, she says, but “Hays is more dire because I personally feel like they’ve reached the point of no return. Whatever decision they make will be extremely difficult. However, they need to make it soon.”

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Rose's bill proposing new development controls for counties dies a quiet death


Even before the deadline, it became known among close followers that the legislation had been "tagged," and thus was doomed to failure, in any event


Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net


* Read the comments or add your own by clicking on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story.


Editor's Note: Sounds like Rep. Rose will stay in the game to the last inning to save his bill, somehow extracting it from Calendars or attaching it in amendment form to another bill on the floor. They say anything's possible in the "Texas House of Mirrors." Don't hold your breath. Too bad our state representative is not also bringing his fighting spirit to the aid of the watered down Chapter 36 groundwater district bill (HB 4796), which he personally killed a little more than a week ago. Score that: Zero for groundwater protection and much needed county development controls – Grand slam for developer interests in Hays County.

By Bob Ochoa
RoundUp Editor


A piece of legislation sponsored by State Rep. Patrick Rose (D-Dripping Springs) that would have assisted counties with new oversight of development in unincorporated areas has died a quiet death in the Texas House of Representatives.


Tuesday May 12 was the deadline for moving bills out of the House Calendars Committee to the floor for debate and a full vote of House members. Rose's HB 3265 (bill analysis), which among other things would have given counties the authority to regulate development density and help reduce groundwater consumption, remained lodged in the committee as the deadline passed.


Even before the deadline, it became known among close followers that the legislation had been "tagged," and thus was likely doomed to failure, in any event. Tagged is legislative jargon for a privilege enjoyed only by Calendars Committee members to hold back a bill "for further study."


Who on the committee decided to tag Rose's HB 3265 and why may never be known. "I can't disclose any of that information that I get from members of the committee," said a young committee clerk. "We don't ask any of those questions."

Unconfirmed rumors were circulating that the culprit, or hero, depending on one's view, was Calendars Committee member Rep. Edmund Kuempel (R-Seguin), a 26-year veteran of the House. (Rep. Kuempel, very unfortunately, suffered a heart attack earlier this week and was in critical condition, according to his Capitol office. We wish him a speedy recovery.)

Hays County Judge Liz Sumter said the bill's demise is a big disappointment, especially since a coalition of 15 Hill Country counties, including Hays, had worked hard the past 21 months to agree on legislation they could rally behind in the current session of the legislature.


"I imagine the coalition is feeling like the two-year-old with candy dangling in front of him and then not getting the candy," Sumter said.

"What it means for us in Hays County right now is another two years where an unwelcome or obnoxious land user will be able to go in to unincoporated areas without any regulation," Sumter said. "Developers don't have to contribute to the stress on infrastructure they cause and that will continue to be paid by the taxpayers of the county."

Sumter said she had yet to be contacted by Rose personally about the bad news.


Rose's office released this statement to the RoundUp: "I have been fighting the developer, builder and realtor lobbyists for over four months and I won't stop. Giving Hill Country counties the authority they need to protect our water and better plan for the future continues to be a priority for my office. This isn't over until June and we are going to keep working to pass HB 3265."

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Well-Flipper, and all the eyesore signs along RR 12 entry to Wimberley


Next time you're passing between Brookmeadow Dr. and Jacobs Well Road, just try to count the number of billboards, signs and banners; there are 22 billboards, signs, and banners, not including the ones for existing businesses

Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net
or to hskillman@austin.rr.com

Editor's Note:
Hellooo . . . county commissioners, county environmental health department, TCEQ . . . anybody home?
Why is this profligate clutter of signs allowed, spoiling the view and entry way into Wimberley? And why was a piece of property in a flood plain approved for development? One business now up and running and another planned have very large impervious cover footprints. All this is a recipe for significant increases in storm water runoff carrying toxic pollutants into our creeks, aquifer and river. Anybody . . . ?

An Open Letter

By Hanlon Skillman

Several years ago a man named Mike Holbrook, a developer formerly with the Quicksand Group in Wimberley, purchased the 25-plus acres we call "the triangle;" it is the triangular piece of property where RR 12 and Jacobs Well intersect.

Together with Marty Munoz of the County Environmental Department, I researched the "triangle" land and found that it is in a flood plain. Immediately the property was listed with a local realtor and real estate company. They erected 4 billboards asking just under 1 million dollars for the flood plain.


Holbrook then “flipped” part of the flood plain acreage to an out-of-town hardware store.


Just one problem. The newly purchased property had no water.


Holbrook then purchased our Mountaincrest neighborhood well from an attorney in Houston. This little well serves 70 or so homes in my neighborhood. Several of us in three adjacent neighborhoods gathered signatures opposing this sale, but the sale eventually was approved by the TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality).


Mountaincrest's little community well is now serving commercial interests and ( . . . gulp!) was purchased by Aqua Texas.

Holbrook attached a large water pipeline to service his newly purchased commercial property in the floodplain. He told our neighborhood group that all development on the property would have rainwater collection. Then the unthinkable occurred.


Holbrook “flipped” the well to Aqua Texas.


Very recently, 3 new billboards have appeared, announcing, "Reserve Your RV & Boat Storage Space Now, 500 spaces available....” Imagine how much oil, grease, gas and diesel is going to drip there, a stone's throw from the actual Jacob's Well.


How is the future development on this land going to be safe from erosion? The flood plain has been stripped of native trees and grasses which might have in the past helped mitigate erosion and flooding. Recently, the county, noticing that serious erosion is occurring, paid the hardware owner a visit.


Next time you're passing between Brookmeadow Dr. and Jacobs Well Road, just try to count the number of billboards, signs and banners; there are 22 billboards, signs, and banners, not including the ones for existing businesses. Look at the piled up rocks and the soil erosion in the flood plain under development.


Just last week, a very large, in-your-face, red and orange for sale sign from another local Real Estate concern appeared across RR 12 from my neighborhood. It's about a mile from our well. Where will the water come from for this commercial development? From our little well, across the road, at the top of the hill?


Looks like all the cheesy development – billboards, signs, banners, whatever, that is not permissible in the Village is now ending up in the county's unincorporated area and the city's ETJ wasteland.


Soil erosion from runoff at the site






















What grime and grease looks like up close on an asphalt
surface




















Fyi, an editorial from the Statesman on PEC board election now under way


Also, while the co-op has maintained high customer satisfaction, recent studies have shown that it is not as strong financially as thought, and the board may face difficult decisions about cutting costs and raising rates

Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net

Editor's Note: The RoundUp does not often agree with editorial endorsements from the Austin American-Statesman. This editorial published Monday May 11, however, is not making any candidate endorsements in the very important June election for three seats on the PEC board of directors. It is simply an informative read. It is important to note that one of the open seats, for District 6, represents a big chunk of Hays County, including parts of Wimberley and Dripping Springs. Ballots are arriving in the mail from the PEC. Members can vote by mail, online or in person at the annual meeting of the PEC in Johnson City on June 20. Please take the time to vote.

* For a look at the PEC district map (pdf), go to this link: http://www.pec.coop/Documents/BODMap.pdf

* Information about all of the candidates is available at the co-op's Web site, www.pec.coop
* An independent PEC member-based source of information can be found at
pec4u.org

From the Statesman, Monday May 11 edition: Three seats on the board of directors for PEC are up for election, and members have a chance to finish the job of reshaping this important utility. Voting has begun and continues to June 12.

The election of directors to the board of an electric co-operative is usually of a little consequence to most people, even its own members. But for the third year in a row, that is not the case at Pedernales Electric Cooperative Inc., based in Johnson City. Co-op members need to pay attention to this year's election, and voting has begun.

The co-op serves much of the Texas Hill Country, but members in just three
counties - Travis, Williamson and Hays - make up 71 percent of the total vote.

Pedernales, the largest electric co-op in the nation, has undergone dramatic
changes since 2007, when the first reform effort ran into a wall of self-serving election by-laws and secrecy thrown up by then-General Manager Bennie Fuelberg and a governing board he thoroughly dominated.

But a lawsuit filed by a few members of the co-op and coverage by the
American-Statesman helped uncover and publicize the wasteful spending of co-op money on directors and top executives and, in some cases, their relatives. Poor business decisions had cost the co-op millions of dollars, but no one was being held accountable.

The lawsuit was settled and forced numerous reforms, but a criminal
investigation by the Texas attorney general continues.

By the time last year's election was held, Fuelberg was gone and a new,
reform-minded general manager, Juan Garza, had been installed. Several board directors up for re-election decided not to run again. But even after the election, four of the seven voting directors were (and remain) of the "old regime," which elected one of its own, R.B. Felps, as president. (The board has cut back on non-voting advisory directors.)

On this year's ballot are three voting director's seats. Two are held by old
regime incumbents, Val Smith and Vi Cloud, who decided not to run again. The third is held by Patrick Cox, a reform director first elected last year and now running unopposed.

In short, after this election, only two old regime directors will still be
on the board, Felps and O.C. Harmon.

What is needed next is a board that will ensure that the co-op's new
openness cannot be quietly reversed by future directors as the years pass.

Also, while the co-op has maintained high customer satisfaction, recent
studies have shown that it is not as strong financially as thought, and the board may face difficult decisions about cutting costs and raising rates.

There are four candidates for the District 1 seat and six for the District 6
seat; Cox is running alone for District 7. All co-op members can vote in all three races. Information about all of the candidates is available at the co-op's Web site, www.pec.coop.

Members can vote through June 12, either by mail or on the Internet. Winners
will be announced at the annual meeting on June 20.

This is not a political election, so there are no parties, and this
newspaper is not endorsing or opposing any candidate. We know of only one group, pec4u.org, which helped mount the challenge to the old regime, whose steering committee has endorsed a slate of candidates. Its choices can be found at its Internet site.

Whatever their choice, Pedernales co-op members should take the opportunity
to be heard.

Monday, May 11, 2009

From today's NY Times: "A Cautionary Video About America's 'Stuff'"


Click here to read the full story: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/11/education/11stuff.html?hp

By Leslie Kaufman
Published: May 10, 2009


The thick-lined drawings of the Earth, a factory and a house, meant to convey the cycle of human consumption, are straightforward and child-friendly. So are the pictures of dark puffs of factory smoke and an outlined skull and crossbones, representing polluting chemicals floating in the air.

Which is one reason “The Story of Stuff,” a 20-minute video about the effects of human consumption, has become a sleeper hit in classrooms across the nation.

The video is a cheerful but brutal assessment of how much Americans waste, and it has its detractors. But it has been embraced by teachers eager to supplement textbooks that lag behind scientific findings on climate change and pollution. And many children who watch it take it to heart: riding in the car one day with his parents in Tacoma, Wash., Rafael de la Torre Batker, 9, was worried about whether it would be bad for the planet if he got a new set of Legos.

“When driving by a big-box store, you could see he was struggling with it,” his father, David Batker, said. But then Rafael said, “It’s O.K. if I have Legos because I’m going to keep them for a very long time,” Mr. Batker recalled.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Local election results of interest from Saturday May 9 election:



Village of Jacobs Well Incorporation

Against 238 – 61.3%
For 150 – 38.7%

Wimberley Council, Place 3

Bill Appleman 197 – 35.7%
Alice Wightman 192 – 34.8%
Mac McCullough 163 – 29.5%

Allow sale of alcoholic beverages at restaurants, JP Precinct 3 (Wimberley)

For 1,133 – 82.9%
Against 234 – 17.1%

Hays CISD school board

Patti Wood (incumbent) 655 – 73.2%
Claude Tice 240 – 26.8%

Dripping Springs ISD school board

Caroline Pekarec (i) 309 – 35.4%
John Adams (i) 256 – 29.3%
Tim Kurpiewski (i) 250 – 28.6%
Rob Lynch 59 – 6.8%

Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD) board of directors
Place 2 – North Dripping Springs Hays County

Gregory Nesbitt 121 – 74.2%
Phillip Grant 42 – 25.8%

Friday, May 8, 2009

'I'm a Realtor: It's how I make my money; water is how I live'



. . . as a Realtor dealing with investment properties (rentals) and people looking to buy and move into the area, it’s impossible to miss the exodus away from Aqua, Inc. areas is only growing stronger

Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net
or to Mr. Ewing, clayeewing@gmail.com

Read the comments or add your own by clicking on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story


Guest Commentary


By Clay E. Ewing

I’m curious about the seeming hypocrisy concerning water in western Hays County.

On the one hand, we have people up in arms over the idea of vesting full authority in Chapter 36 for the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, for reasons that cannot seem to bear up to any level of scrutiny.

On the other, we allow an out-of-state corporation to run carte blanche over the reasonable right to water at a competitive rate, while also allowing them the leeway to let raw sewage flow freely from manhole covers during rainstorms or when one of the pumps goes out, not to even mention how they lose more water to leakage than they pump into homes.

We have loud and acrimonious meetings to shout down new subdivisions because of the astonishingly bad planning that promotes a thousand wells and septic tanks in less than a thousand acres, but do not seem capable of supporting the idea to promote—through tax breaks and incentives—the very proven rain water harvesting concept instead of all those wells.

In thinking about things like this, one thought keeps coming back up: we don’t think beyond our own life spans. We say we do, we might even think we do. But, a people who think a hundred years ahead don’t act as though we can burn, pump, cut down, or pollute all the resources we want to now, and still have any for our children and grandchildren’s needs. It’s just not reasonable to believe the person who gives themselves everything their heart desires, is thinking past those desires.

And, to not put any more fine a point than a simple one: there will be no subject, there will be nothing of greater importance not just to Western Hays County, but to the nation as a whole, than water. If your car runs out of gas, you walk, if my home runs out of electricity to run my air conditioner, I’ll sweat. If we run out of water, we die. Individually, collectively, we. Not you, not me. We.

Thus, it was with great disappointment I read how Mr.s Rose and Wentworth killed full vestment of Chapter 36. As a Realtor, I should jump and dance and shout hosannas, but the fact of the matter is, real estate is how I make money, but water is how I live. I try hard not to confuse the two, as they are very different things, and we, as a nation, confuse them all the time.

The scrutiny of Chapter 36? The nays say we don’t need another level of government, we don’t need to track our water usage, we don’t need to jeopardize our economy by layering new fees and rules onto our area. I hear that.

But I also note this: The layer of government they don’t want is there already, in volunteer form for something that will define our very existence for decades to come. So, do we really want well intentioned, even well educated, volunteers to handle this on a part-time basis, or do we want people, elected and hired people, who represent our interests—not some corporation, not some developer, but our interests—to handle this issue?

But, you don’t want to put a meter on your well and pay for the water you use? Well, the legislation Rose and Wentworth is letting die wouldn’t do that; in fact, the last writing of the legislation was very emphatic: existing wells are exempt from meters and fees, and of the new wells, only commercial wells are covered. Which means about 98% of the new wells would be exempt.

I would also note this: as a Realtor dealing with investment properties (rentals) and people looking to buy and move into the area, it’s impossible to miss the exodus away from Aqua, Inc. areas is only growing stronger. So, having a private water company running roughshod over your pocketbook, and providing nearly nothing in return for the three or four times the ‘normal’ base charges found all over America, is hurting sales and rentals far more than anything Chapter 36 would do.

In fact, our ground water district is the only one in Texas without full vestment of 36, and so far as I’ve read, none of the others have seen a dip in real estate activity that can be tied to before and after vestment. Which leads me to believe the arguments thus far are probably more hysterical than real.

Messieurs Rose and Wentworth, if you’re reading this: I’m actually very disappointed in your short-sightedness in this matter. I’m not all that surprised, because so far from what I’ve heard, your loudest constituents are making all the noises most associated with the short-term fever than, ultimately, is what has stricken our national economy and brought the world nearly to its knees, and it’s hard to suddenly stand up and say, This is wrong, we have to do something different.

It’s hard, and it’s perhaps frightening. We’ve been living short-term for so long we don’t seem to know any different any more. But the fact is, if we don’t think into our children’s lifetimes, when they’re the age we are now, we can probably kiss goodbye the life we know for them then, because our lack of vision will have killed it.

If there is never a question that something should be done to right a wrong, the question then becomes, What am I going to do?

Clay Ewing is a former op-ed columnist for the Texan Express (Goliad ’84-’86), edited a regional bicycling newsletter in South Texas (1990-2000), on-going blogger and writer of short stories, landscape and color abstract photographer. Mr. Ewing is a practicing Realtor in the Wimberley area.