Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Rose showers friends with bills allowing taxation, but shuns groundwater district
Rose’s bill authorizes the new (Driftwood) developer district to impose a sales tax, an ad valorem tax, an excise tax and a hotel occupancy tax, and the developer is the only voter qualified to cast a vote on the November 3rd ballot issue

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Editor's Note: It looks like what we have here is a classic case of 'do what I say, not what I do.' We hope that in Mr. Rose's upcoming campaign for re-election for a fifth term (any term limiters out there?) many alert voters will ask him what exactly he stands for in groundwater management/conservation/development controls for counties, and taxation – and pin him down for some straight 'n honest answers. Politicians in Hays County are used to getting a free pass on their good ol' boy spin and pulling the wool over the eyes of uninformed voters. We
all should do our utmost to ensure that political duplicity is no longer the rule but rather the rare exception. We appreciate Mr. O'Dell's tenacious reporting and for continuing to hold our elected officials' feet to the fire.

By Charles O'Dell
RoundUp Contributor

State Representative Patrick Rose has a perverted, if not inconsistent manner of matching his words with his deeds.

When asked to introduce legislation that would give the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District the Water Code Chapter 36 authority it needed just to ask voters for a small tax so the financially hamstrung District could go about it’s mission of protecting their water wells in western Hays County, Rose said, “I do not believe that during these difficult economic times homeowners should be asked to pay more taxes on their home and property.”

Then in a fit of amnesia Rose authored HB 4725, creating the Caldwell County Municipal Utility District No. 1 with authority to impose a tax, issue bonds and granting it power of eminent domain. Remember, the Trinity Groundwater Conservation District was just asking Rose for authority to ask the voters for a small tax, not to impose any tax.

Rose wouldn’t introduce legislation giving our Groundwater Conservation District authority to protect our wells, but he would author H.B. 2441 and HJR 83, both amending Section 49.4645 (a), of the same Water Code, and authorizing certain conservation and reclamation districts in Hays County to issue bonds supported by ad valorem taxes to fund the development and maintenance of recreational facilities.

And as if to thump the noses of well owners, Rose announced that he had secured a one-million dollar appropriation for the Rivers Systems Institute at Texas State University to conduct a San Marcos River Observing System project. "I am pleased to partner with Texas State in support of research that will further the environmental quality and economic security of our region," said Mr. Rose.
Rivers are his thing, but what
about protecting our groundwater?

Apparently Rose doesn’t support those in Hays County who depend on their wells for environmental quality, economic security and for their drinking water. No one at the Institute was able to describe just what the research project was, but they had a million tax dollars to spend, thanks to Rose.

Rose wasn’t through with his public generosity of using other folks’ money for his friends in high places. He introduced HB 714, a bill that authorized the Texas State University System board of regents to issue $52 million in revenue bonds that could be paid off with student tuition charges. What one hand giveth, the other hand taketh away.

Ok, so no one can claim that Rose doesn’t take care of his friends or know where his bread is buttered. His HB 3940 was written to provide assistance for certain employees of the legislative branch in repaying their student loans. All students are equal according to Rose, except that some students are more equal than others.

Driftwood – saving the best for last

But Rose saved his best for last. When his hometown friends and a huge campaign contributor came calling for a favor, Rose delivered with HB 4825 in the final hours of the 2009 Legislative session. That bill created the Driftwood Economic Development Municipal Management District, a special developer district that is designed to convert the Salt Lick Restaurant and 500 adjoining acres into a haven for those who can afford it.

Rose’s bill authorizes the new developer district to impose a sales tax, an ad valorem tax, an excise tax and a hotel occupancy tax, and the developer is the only voter qualified to cast a vote on the November 3rd ballot issue.

Here is where the Rose saga takes another perverted turn. Several months before, the Hays County Emergency Services District No. 6 board of commissioners had already decided to ask voters for approval of a one percent sales tax in its 281 square mile District, excluding the City of Dripping Springs. These additional funds would be used for additional fire fighters and equipment to serve everyone in ESD #6, including those living in Dripping Springs and in the new developer district.

More recently, the Driftwood EDMMD developer also decided to seek voter approval for a sales tax (only his vote was needed). State law limits the combined local sales tax to no more than 2%, and the new developer district sales tax combined with the 1% sales tax called for on the ESD ballot item would exceed 2%, voiding both tax election results if voters approved the ESD tax.

So the Emergency Services District board voted to cancel its 2009 election and make way for the developer. If the ESD holds its sales tax election next year, the developer district will be excluded along with the City of Dripping Springs which already has a sales tax.

Thanks to Rep. Patrick Rose, developers get their way in Hays County, even if at the expense of our fire safety planners and our taxpayers. So early voters living in ESD #6 will have to vote again next year at the earliest to approve increased fire and emergency protection. Of course those visiting the new developer district will continue to receive fire protection paid for by those ESD #6 taxpayers who also have fire insurance policies.

Oh, let's not forget. Rose said he fought to get our insurance costs lowered.

What to believe – what Rep. Rose says or what he does? “I do not believe that during these difficult economic times homeowners should be asked to pay more taxes on their home and property.”

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Salt Lick owner wants to name his new development 'Driftwood' . . . 'I don't think so,' says another Driftwood resident

" . . . there already is a Driftwood [community] and if Roberts wants to do this sales/property tax project he should be able to do so, but he should use a different namesake for his development, e.g., Robertsville or Salt Lick City."

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comments" button at the botton of the story

Note: We received this e-mail this morning from an alert Driftwood-area resident and taxpayer.

See the story in the Statesman at this link:

Salt Lick owner Scott Roberts has a referendum on the upcoming ballot to create a taxing district on the 540 acres Roberts owns off FM 1826 and FM 150 that would allow him to collect sales tax to maintain his planned residential and recreational development. If the referendum passes, it would create a new 1.25 percent sales tax — starting with food sold at the Salt Lick — that would be charged in addition to existing sales tax to maintain the development for years to come. Hotel taxes and property taxes on homes in the area also would support the venture.

Slick legal move by Roberts, Patrick Rose, attorneys, et. al who want to call the new community Driftwood. However, there already is a Driftwood [community] and if Roberts wants to do this sales/property tax project he should be able to do so, but he should use a different namesake for his development, e.g., Robertsville or Salt Lick City.

Please see that the referendum undergoes this name change.

Blaming drought, LCRA mulls freeze on water sales

"Wishful thinking is not good water planning," said Mason, noting that one massive storm in 1952 raised the level of Lake Travis more than 50 feet in one day, but the rainfall was merely a blip in a long and devastating drought.

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

Read the whole story at this link:

Austin American-Statesman

By Chuck Lindell


Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Spurred by lake levels that remain distressingly low despite recent heavy rains, the Lower Colorado River Authority will consider temporarily halting new water sales until drought conditions ease.

The moratorium, the first of its kind to be considered by the agency's board of directors, is designed to protect water supplies already promised to cities and industrial users along the Colorado River, General Manager Tom Mason said Monday.

"We really do want to protect those folks we've already committed to. We want to deliver that water," Mason said.

The proposal, which will be considered Nov. 10, would not affect cities or industrial users with existing water contracts, including Austin.

"If you have purchased water, that's fine. If you want new water contracts, we will recommend to the board of directors that we temporarily put those on hold until the lakes significantly (rise)," LCRA spokesman Robert Cullick said. "We're trying to not increase demand on the river and lakes."

Three pending contracts would be frozen under the proposed moratorium, including increases in water supplies sought by Horseshoe Bay and Kingsland — both of which pumped more water last year than allowed under their LCRA contracts.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Small Business Faces Sharp Rise in Costs of Health Care

HighRoads projects that premiums will rise 14.4 percent for an individual in a health maintenance organization plan at a typical small employer

Read the whole story here.

New York Times


Published: October 24, 2009

As Congress nears votes on legislation that would overhaul the health care system, many small businesses say they are facing the steepest rise in insurance premiums they have seen in recent years.

Insurance brokers and benefits consultants say their small business clients are seeing premiums go up an average of about 15 percent for the coming year — double the rate of last year’s increases. That would mean an annual premium that was $4,500 per employee in 2008 and $4,800 this year would rise to $5,500 in 2010.

The higher premiums at least partly reflect the inexorable rise of medical costs, which is forcing Medicare to raise premiums, too. Health insurance bills are also rising for big employers, but because they have more negotiating clout, their increases are generally not as steep.

Higher medical costs aside, some experts say they think the insurance industry, under pressure from Wall Street, is raising premiums to get ahead of any legislative changes that might reduce their profits.

The increases come at a politically fraught time for the insurers, as they try to fight off the creation of a government-run competitor and as they push their case that they have a central role to play in controlling the nation’s health care costs.

President Obama, in his Saturday radio address, said the Democrats’ health insurance overhaul would help small businesses and stimulate the economy by providing relief from “the crushing costs of health care — costs that have forced too many small businesses to cut benefits, shed jobs, or shut their doors for good.”

The insurance industry has already been under sharp attack by Democratic lawmakers who favor creating a government-run insurance plan that would compete with private insurers. Without that competition, proponents say, insurers will continue to price coverage beyond the reach of many Americans.

Small businesses, which employ about 40 percent of the private labor force, are a big constituency for both parties.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Props 2&3: Are they back doors for the State to tax your homestead?

We received this e-mail today from a very alert citizen regarding two of the proposed 11 amendments to our State Constitution. Early voting is now under way through Oct. 30 in Hays County. Election day is Nov. 3. The RoundUp also has recommended a No vote on Props 2&3 due to the vagueness of the language and the very real possibility they could, if passed, turn around and bite us all on the backside. There's nothing stopping the Lege, our governor and state agencies from interpreting them as they see fit. See story below by Charles O'Dell for more on all 11 proposed amendments. An interesting aside: Our State Rep. Patrick Rose was one of three authors of Propositions 2&3 (SJR 36).

The League of Women Voters has placed Voters Guides at the Village Library and at the Community Center in Wimberley.

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

Read the propositions at this link:

Click on this link for early voting locations:

Well folks, here it is! Rally the troops! I don’t often send out mass emails, but this one deserves it. The election in November will determine if the State can start taxing you if you own a home.

Please go vote. Elections with amendments usually have very low turnout and I think that is what the legislators are counting on. Let’s show them differently! We already have too high property taxes and now the State wants to start taxing us also on our homestead. Please read the forwarded email in it’s entirety and tell everyone you know to go vote NO! on Prop 2 & 3. Once this passes there is no turning it back!

On November 3rd, there will be Propositions 1, 2, and 3 allowing the State
of Texas to start taxing Residential Homeowners. So if you own a home, and these laws are passed, you will be taxed by the State.

I received a flyer from the Secretary of State, Hope Andrade, listing the
Propositions that are up for election in November. I called to question them before sending this message out to my homeowner friends.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Public comment opens on county's first comprehensive policy plan; meetings scheduled in November

Editor's Note:
The press release
below from Hays County is making the rounds. We hope that wagon loads of people will take the time to comment and that the county's first comprehensive Strategic Policy Plan will make a difference in setting a smart and sustainable course for future development in our county. Boy howdy we can sure use it. The plan, in final form, is supposed to be rolled out in January.

We always are aware that the folks we elect to office are the ones who can make the difference between putting a good plan to good use and setting it on a shelf to collect dust. From what we are hearing, this one has potential. It is now in the final public comment stage. Make your voices heard. The online survey is open through Nov. 6.

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

Go to this site to the anonymous survey and comments – it takes a little time to load:
Or visit the county's website,

Hays County residents now have more opportunities to shape the future of their county by offering opinions and insights during the development of the county’s Strategic Policy Plan, either through completing an online survey or participating in a public meeting, or both.

Quality of life in Hays County, water quality and quantity, delivery of health care and transportation services, and the need for parks and recreation are some of the key issues that will demand a coordinated, well-thought-out plan as governmental agencies keep up with the rapid growth in Hays County. The plan will help myriad entities in the county work together to find solutions, avoid duplication of effort and provide a seamless delivery of services to residents.

The plan is being developed in conjunction with city leaders as well as with a variety of stakeholder groups, such as school districts, senior citizens, health care providers, conservationists, developers and business owners and individual citizens. Planners with Hays County, the Lower Colorado River Authority, Pedernales Electric Co-op and Bluebonnet Electric Co-op are assisting by organizing meetings and compiling results under the direction of a multi-faceted steering committee.

Residents can assist by filling out a survey available on the Hays County Web site at or directly at

The public is invited to discuss their concerns and ideas from 6:30 to 9 p.m.:

- November 10 at the Wimberley Community Center, 14068 RR 12, Wimberley

- November 12 at Chapa Middle School, 3311 Dacy Lane, Kyle

- November 17 at the San Marcos Police Department, 630 E. Hopkins St., San Marcos

- November 19 at Dripping Springs City Hall, 511 Mercer St., Dripping Springs

Monday, October 19, 2009

Nov. 3 election to weigh 11 more amendments to our State Constitution; here's how we see 'em

Today begins early voting on eleven additional amendments to the Texas Constitution. This gerrymandered state document contains more than 90,000 words and 456 amendments

Send your comments and news tips to or to Mr. O'Dell at

By Charles O'Dell, Ph.D.

RoundUp Contributor

Do you believe your vote makes a difference? How about only ten percent of the voters making decisions for the other ninety percent? Only you can cast your vote.

Early voting ends Oct. 30, and the election is Tuesday, Nov. 3, so there is ample opportunity to vote if you believe in democracy.

Today begins early voting on eleven additional amendments to the Texas Constitution. This gerrymandered state document contains more than 90,000 words and 456 amendments. By contrast, our inspirational U.S. Constitution contains just 7,876 words, including 27 amendments, one of which was to repeal the 18th amendment.

Detailed information about the eleven proposed amendments is available at these two links:

Frankly, these are not constitutional issues and the legislature could pass statutes for these issues instead of further cluttering our State Constitution.

Here are our recommendations. Maybe you agree.

AGAINST Proposition 1: Allows cities and counties to sell bonds to pay for "buffer areas" or open spaces near military bases. This would stave off encroachment that could prevent base expansion. The money also could be used for roads and other improvements to assist military installations. Read higher taxes.

AGAINST Proposition 2: The proposal bars residential appraisals from being set based on "highest and best use." This amendment is a wolf in sheep’s clothing and would make commercial expansion less costly to developers. The appraisal process already provides for homeowner appeals of tax bills. Business organizations all supported this amendment in senate and house hearings.

AGAINST Proposition 3: This amendment gives state lawmakers the authority to set standards and practices for appraisals. The legislature doesn’t require a constitutional amendment to set appraisal standards. It already has that authority. Something is fishy here.

AGAINST Proposition 4: Allowing use of state money to help state universities achieve the coveted tier-one status. Restricted to only a few major universities. Spend to advance educational opportunities at all state colleges and universities.

FOR Proposition 5: Allowing adjoining appraisal districts to share a single board for appraisal disputes if they choose to do so.

FOR Proposition 6: Continue the bonding authority used by the Veterans Land Board to offer below-market financing to veterans for home and land purchases.

FOR Proposition 7: Allows Texas State Guard members to hold "civil office" (elected office).

FOR Proposition 8: Authorizes use of state resources to help build and operate veterans hospitals in Texas.

AGAINST Proposition 9: Texas already has an Open Beaches Act that guarantees public access to beaches. Just enforce it.

AGAINST Proposition 10: The Constitution already provides for emergency service district officeholders to serve two-year terms unless specifically exempted. Why change to four-year terms?

FOR Proposition 11: Specifically allows governmental entities eminent domain power only to take private property for public use and not for "economic development or enhancement of tax revenue purposes."

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.

Wimberley asks for attorney general's opinion on water protection powers . . . why?

Nearby Dripping Springs, which forged water quality ordinances after a two-year regional planning process, will support Wimberley in the matter

Send your comments and news tips to, to Mr. Price at, or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

Monday, October 19, 2009

An upcoming opinion by the state attorney general on whether Wimberley can regulate development in areas outside its city limits could have implications across the Hill Country.

The City Council wants to enact construction rules in the city's extraterritorial jurisdiction — an area outside the city but subject to some city rules — to limit pollution from oil washing off driveways or from fertilizer washing off yards, among other things. The rules could require setbacks from waterways, detention ponds to capture pollutants or silt fences to prevent construction materials or eroding soils from washing into streams.

State Rep. Patrick Rose, D-Dripping Springs, acting on behalf of Wimberley, posed the matter to the attorney general's office. An answer is unlikely to come this year, but the public comment period closes Friday. Several small cities that already have such construction rules are preparing to ask the attorney general to uphold that authority.

Hill Country hamlets are fast becoming burgs, and in the process officials are grappling with how to protect streams and aquifers that are important for drinking water and tourism. Cypress Creek and the Blanco River cut through Wimberley, for example, and the Trinity Aquifer sits beneath it.

The population in western Hays County, including Wimberley, estimated at 30,000 in 2005, could grow to 63,000 by 2035, according to data provided by the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization.

"The city has a strong desire to enforce water quality controls in our ETJ," said Wimberley City Manager Don Ferguson. "It's the belief of our city that we have the ability to enforce such regulations, ... but we thought it would be prudent to seek an attorney general's opinion to make sure we're on solid ground on the issue, to limit the legal risk of challenge."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

For Insurers, a Question of Trust (and Antitrust)

" . . . They have become so dominant that they dictate business practices. They are so influential that they exert tremendous influence over public policy”

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

Read the whole story at this link:

By David M. Herszenhorn

New York Times

In a rare appearance as a witness at a Senate hearing, the majority leader, Harry Reid of Nevada, told the Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that it should repeal a 1945 law that granted the insurance industry limited exemption to national antitrust laws by allowing states to regulate insurers.

The law, the McCarran-Ferguson Act, is often cited by Mr. Reid and other critics of the health insurance industry as a reason why coverage can be so expensive for many people. They say the law allows insurers to monopolize markets and fix prices in ways that are usually illegal.

“Since 1945, the insurance industry has enjoyed exemption from federal antitrust laws because of the McCarran-Ferguson Act,” Mr. Reid said. “Pat McCarran, who was the senior senator from Nevada at the time, lent his name to this piece of legislation. Although we’re both Nevadans, I’m not sure what Pat McCarran had in mind when he pushed this bill. And if Pat were around today, he couldn’t be happy with the state of the insurance industry.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Without the SH 45 extension to I-35, who needs a massive reconstruction of FM 1626?

Huber said if the 1626 intersection at Manchaca is redesigned and
improvements are made to Manchaca, it might lessen the traffic on Brodie and eliminate the need for 45 SW

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

FM 1626 – does the traffic justify expansion to 5 lanes?
Update, Thursday Oct. 15 – We are informed the 1626 reconstruction project is currently bogged down in environmental matters, apparently golden cheek warbler habitat-related. "They are still working on the design," said a county official. Due to recent road management changes in which commissioners have taken on "road czar" status in their own precincts, much, if not all, of the decision-making on this pricey project is falling in the lap of Pct. 2 Commissioner Jeff Barton. We haven't had much luck connecting with Commissioner Huger of Travis County; and still no word from county-paid road bond consultant Mike Weaver.

Editor's Note:
In a report last week from the Oak Hill Gazette, Travis County Commissioner
Karen Huber says the planned extension of SH 45 SW to I-35 is not likely to pan out. Things have changed, she says, which shines a whole new light on a planned $90-plus million reconstruction of FM 1626 in northern Hays County into a 4- or 5-lane super commuter arterial. Would three lanes that could handle 17,000 vehicles safely be more efficient? The 1626 project is by far the most expensive in the 2008 road bond, and could wind up becoming the most wasteful if the reconstruction proceeds as initially sold to the voters and taxpayers. On that point and more clarification, we're waiting to hear back from Commissioner Huber, whose precinct abuts the north Hays County line at Brodie Lane and Manchaca Rd. We've got calls in to the Hays County Auditor's office to check on 1626 expenditures to date, and to the county's road bond consultant to check on current plans. It is disturbing to hear that 1626 – the proposed project – "is bleeding all over itself." That could mean needless waste already is occurring and/or some of our county officials don't have their acts together.

From Rob Baxter of the Friendship Alliance of north Hays County: It is said that every cloud has a silver lining and in (this) case, whatever the economic cloud may be, it has the silver lining of reality attached to it. When times get tight the reality is that our genuine needs should take precedence and our imagined needs should go to the back burner, if not be pushed off the table. Hopefully, reality is showing SW45 not only the back-burner, but the table as well.

For years now, the self-interested residents of South Brodie Lane and the Northern Hays development interests cheered on by Hays County Commissioner Jeff Barton, have argued for the connection of FM 1626 to South MOPAC. For South Brodie residents, this gets them on MOPAC literally a few minutes sooner. For Jeff Barton, it justifies his FM 1626 pork barrel planning.

When drawn on a piece of paper, this SW45 connector can appear to be logical and maybe even necessary, but the reality is that it is neither logical or needed. Were this road to go in, it would serve primarily to permanently congest South MOPAC as thousands of cars from North Hays and the new I-35/FM 1626 bypass feeder would dump right onto MOPAC. Those of us from FM1826 and 290W who drive South MOPAC daily certainly do not see the logic in that.

Alternatively, looking at any map it is obvious that FM1626 can far more easily and with less environmental impact expand east to I-35, which it already intersects as a two-lane road. But the reality is that without 45SW or a 45SE, there is simply no need for the largesse of five lanes on FM 1626, so that wasted money can pretty much be saved right away or better yet, diverted to genuine roadway needs elsewhere in Hays County. Please read on and sigh for once, that logic and not greed, may prevail.

Read the whole story here.

By Tony Tucci
Oct. 7, 2009

OAK HILL - Arguments for the construction of State Highway 45 Southwest (SH 45 SW) are developing cracks even before the first yard of concrete is poured.

Precinct 3 County Commissioner Karen Huber, while saying that she
still favors the roadway, pointed out some of the problems in a speech before the Oak Hill Business and Professional Association last week.

"I'm not saying SH 45 SW shouldn't be built," Huber said. "I'm just
saying that conditions are different than they were 20 years ago." One difference is that traffic patterns in Southwest Travis County and Northern Hays County are changing and there may be less need for SH 45 SW. Huber pointed out that activity centers are being built in Buda, Kyle and San Marcos and a lot of Hays County traffic is heading south instead of into Austin.

The 1626-Brodie corridor traffic count didn't even make the top 20 of
the most congested roads on the Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) list, Huber said. "So that makes it a problem for CAMPO to push through the priority of this project."

Residents along Brodie Lane have been outspoken about the need for the
project, and recently held a support rally to convince CAMPO that the project is needed. Huber said the traffic count on Brodie in 2009 was 11,000. Without Highway 45 SW, the traffic count in 2015 would be 13,500; and with Highway 45 SW, the traffic count in 2015 would be 10,500. "So you're not looking at a whole lot of relief," she said.

The major obstacle, however, is funding. "The bottom line is that
regardless of the fact that the economy has gone bad, the funding for 45 SW is very difficult." She said there are no funds to build it as a non-toll road, and the traffic count will not justify going out in the market to fund a toll road.

"The bottom line is that the money is not there. So what do I do as
your county commissioner? We have our staff working on ways to relieve the congestion," Huber said. She said Manchaca Road has much more capacity to carry the volume of traffic. "I actually made the trip and it only took me six minutes longer to go 1626 to Manchaca to William Cannon and back to Brodie." Huber said if the 1626 intersection at Manchaca is redesigned and improvements are made to Manchaca, it might lessen the traffic on Brodie and eliminate the need for 45 SW.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Break out your grandma's old recipes, we're having a mashed potato cook off

The cook off will be held at the beautiful hilltop Unity Church of Wimberley. The 43-acre grounds are gorgeous, with a sweeping view of the surrounding hills, nature trails, a sacred labyrinth, junior olympic size pool and tennis courts

Learn more about this first-of-a-kind Texas event in Wimberley by emailing or visit the church web site. Click here for an
entry form and contest rules.

Click on the graphic to enlarge & download
You ask, "Who the heck ever heard of a mashed potato cook off in Texas!?" Barbecue, chili, and craw fish boils are the norm around here. But that's okay. This cook off event certainly qualifies as "a first," and falls in with the local "Keep Wimberley Weirder" theme. And since it doesn't appear to have any overt political agendas attached to it, we're giving it two thumbs up: gastronomically uplifting and some good community fun. Also worth noting are the three outstanding personalities who will serve as cook off judges: Linda Allen of Linda's Fine Foods, Dave Lewis of Juan Enrique's and Hays County Judge Liz Sumter. A $100 cash prize will be awarded to the best of show dish. Musical entertainment and local food vendors will be on hand to add some extra flavor. The cook off will be held at the beautiful hilltop Unity Church, about 2 miles east of town off FM 3237. Take the Red Hawk Rd exit. Stay to your left, go over the low water bridge, and up the hill. The 43-acre grounds are gorgeous. A great setting for a cook off, with a sweeping view of the surrounding hills, nature trails, a sacred labyrinth, junior olympic size pool and tennis courts. The place has an interesting and storied history. It once was a part of a large ranch owned by the Moody family of Galveston. So bring along your family and your best mashed potato dish, with a little extra for the tasters. Play a game of tennis or take a tour. We are informed this is a "shine only" event. It will be rescheduled in the event of rain. Gates open at 10 a.m. Judging starts at 12 noon. Call Unity at 512.847.6587 for more details.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

We love you Seton, but why did you need $54 million in local tax subsidies?

A lot of noise has been heard of late about the socialization of medicine in the health care reform debate. Here in Hays County we are socializing not only a non-profit hospital, but a for-profit developer. They call it corporate welfare

Send your comments and news tips to, to Mr. Moden at, or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

No doubt Seton is a welcome addition to Hays County with its new hospital and quality staff – actually, 'first rate' staff and medical care from what the RoundUp is hearing. We wish Seton success with its various medical and health care programs. Seton's arrival is another sign that Hays County is growing up. However, as Merle Moden points out in his well researched commentary, growing up does not necessarily require giving away millions in local tax subsidies to new development.

Subsidies are not abstract things, they add up to real money
We shudder to think about the total amount of subsidies granted by our local elected officials to business and land developers over the past 10-15 years. One hundred million dollars-plus probably would not be a wild guess. The troubling aspect to this practice of front loading with generous tax subsidies are all the costs we taxpayers get stuck with on the back end, like more traffic, more air & ground pollution, more road maintenance, more schools and school bonds, and higher taxes. If our elected officials can't produce proof that the tax subsidies are being paid back in full and improving our quality of life, then the taxpayers should insist that this practice be stopped. Smoke screen arguments about beneficial economic multiplier effects simply won't cut it any longer. A small circle of individuals usually make a lot of money on these deals. We want to see that the taxpayers are getting a good deal, too. Show us the money, honey. Some long overdue tax relief would be good, for starters.

By Merle Moden
RoundUp Contributor

On December 27, 2007 Hays County signed an agreement with the Daughters of Charity Health Services of Austin doing business as Seton Family of Hospitals (Seton), a Texas non-profit corporation, and SCC Kyle Partners, Ltd. (SCC), a Texas for-profit limited partnership. These two entities agreed to construct a hospital, office buildings, and retail developments in the City of Kyle. In this agreement Hays County Commissioners agreed to subsidize these developments by rebating sales tax collections to the tune of an estimated $6 million over 15 years. Kyle committed to providing about $48.2 million in subsidies over 20 years with the Hays Independent School District providing a $400,000 subsidy.

If these developments are economically viable, why would Seton and SCC ask for a government hand-out? And better yet, why would Kyle, the Hays school district, and Hays County cave in and provide subsidies? Are there undisclosed business relationships among the various politicians and the landowners, Seton, or SCC? These subsidies do not pass the smell test.

Hays County Commissioners initially refused tax subsidies for retail developments, but apparently caved-in to the subsidies when informed by Seton that failure to grant the subsidies would be a deal-breaker for the Kyle development. Ostensibly, Hays County Commissioners were desperate for a second hospital in Hays County. But, this explanation doesn’t hold much water, as Austin’s St. David’s Healthcare had land under contract in Hays County with the intention to build a hospital.

Public officials rationalize their decisions to grant subsidies by looking to the benefits of economic development. With few exceptions economic development that is not viable should not be made viable by government subsidies. I suspect that this project was economically viable from the start, but Seton and SCC simply sweetened the pot for themselves by manipulating the various spineless politicians into granting the subsidies.

A lot of noise has been heard of late about the socialization of medicine in the health care reform debate. Here in Hays County we are socializing not only a non-profit hospital, but a for-profit developer. They call it corporate welfare.

Merle L. Moden has resided in Wimberley since 1997. He is a retired economist with over two decades of experience in medical care rate-making. He served on the Austin Electric Utility Commission for several years, chaired a citizen’s committee on City of Austin Water and Wastewater cost of service, and served on the Travis Central Appraisal District Board of Review.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Texas-Sized Health Care Failure

If Congress now creates new exchanges, as seems increasingly likely, it must prevent this phenomenon by setting two national rules: Insurers have to accept everyone and have to charge everyone the same rates regardless of health status

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

This story was published in today's New York Times. The health care reform debate in Washington has struck a nerve with the American people, including many here in Hays County. Cappy McGarr had a close up view of the failure of Texas' own attempt at a health care exchange for small businesses in the mid to late 90s. Its demise, Mr. McGarr notes, was assisted greatly by – you guessed it – the health insurance industry.

Here's the link to the whole story:

Op-Ed Contributor
Published: October 5, 2009

The Senate Finance Committee has for the moment rejected the idea of creating a public health insurance plan. It’s difficult to see how Americans will be able to find good, affordable health insurance without one.

But if we are to go forward without a public option, it is more important than ever to make sure that we get another part of health reform right: the exchanges, where it is envisioned that small businesses and people without employer-sponsored insurance could shop for policies of their own.

Back in the 1990s, I was the founding chairman of Texas’ state-run purchasing alliance — an exchange, essentially — which ultimately failed. There are lessons to be learned from that experience, as well as the similar failures of other states to create useful exchanges.


Private insurance companies, which could offer small-business policies both inside and outside the exchange, cherry-picked relentlessly, signing up all the small businesses with generally healthy employees and offloading the bad risks — companies with older or sicker employees — onto the exchange.

Cappy McGarr, the president of a private equity firm, was the chairman of the Texas Insurance Purchasing Alliance from 1993 to 1995.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Hays CARD invites one and all to October Eco Fest

For more details, contact or or visit the web site,

Click on graphic to enlarge
The Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD) promotes sensible growth in the Wimberley Valley and western Hays County, an area known for its abundant natural beauty and rural Hill Country character. CARD supports and encourages sustainable development and practices that protect local natural resources such as Blue Hole, Jacob's Well, Cypress Creek, the Blanco River and our aquifers. CARD works with elected officials, developers and others to preserve these natural resources. We educate and inform local citizens of impending threats to the future of our community, work with like-minded groups in the region, and encourage active participation to protect this land we all love.


Eco Fest is located at Katherine Anne Porter School, in Wimberley, at 515 FM 2325, across the street from Linda Allen’s Fine Foods.

Doors open at 9:30 a.m.

10 a.m.
Land Stewardship, with Jamie Kinscherff, land manager for Canyon Gorge, and Karen Archer of Argus EcoServices. How to care for your property and keep it healthy.
Cedar: Wanted Dead & Alive, with Elizabeth McGreevy, landscape architect and permaculture designer. When to take out cedar, and when you need to keep it.

11 a.m.
Energy Conservation/Home Weatherizing, with a representative of Pedernales Electric Cooperative.
Rainwater Harvesting for Home Use, with Richard Heinichen, co-author of Rainwater Collection for the Mechanically Challenged, a long-time rainwater advocate, owner of Tank Town and bottler of Richard’s Rainwater.

Oak Wilt, with Eric Beckers, Texas Forest Service. Eric has 28 years dealing with oak wilt, and tells you ways to prevent it and get financial aid to fight it.
Organic Gardening, with Malcolm Beck, long time author and international speaker on organic gardening, and founder of Garden-Ville.

1 p.m.
Home Wildfire Prevention and Protection, with Jan Fulkerson of the Texas Forest Service. How to save your home.
Understanding Your Aquifer, with Doug Wierman, General Manager, and Al Broun, District Geologist, of Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District.

2 p.m.
Wildlife Management for Small Acreage Owners, with Bryan Davis, Bexar County (and formerly Hays County) AgriLife Extension Service.
Flood Preparedness (speaker to be confirmed)

3 p.m.
Special extended presentation
Green Building, with well-known Austin green architect Peter L. Pfeiffer, of Austin’s Barley & Pfeiffer. You may have seen Peter featured recently giving a tour of his family’s own beautiful but very energy-efficient home on the Discovery Channel’s World’s Greenest Homes. He’s a very popular speaker and his talks are lively interactions with lots of sensible, cool and surprising ideas for building, remodeling or refitting.

Also: From 10 a.m-2 p.m.: Several mini-seminars, and exhibits by Hays County Master Naturalists.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Conley rides again in Woodcreek North

The questions are, how much will the taxpayers be in for, and is this just another one of those late-coming developer bailouts?

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comments" button below the story

By Bob Ochoa
RoundUp Editor

Things are bubbling just below the surface over at Woodcreek North (WN) and Wimberley Springs subdivision (WS). The subject is roads and whether the county will take over maintenance of the private roads in those two populated enclaves, with the always generous assistance of Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley.

Conley recently told the RoundUp talks are being held with the respective property owners associations but no agreements have been made. "They have all kinds of (road) issues that could be addressed by the county," he said.

"Those people don't pay county taxes? Why should they not get county services? That's why we have a procedure and policy discussions at the court . . . we'll go over those details and possibly come to the point of coming to the (commissioners) court."

Another source confirms that a meeting took place a few days back between Conley and representatives of WN and WS. The parties reportedly are looking at which roads might transfer to county maintenance, which will not, and how POA road maintenance fees and maintenance work will get divvied up. Some of the roads, especially those with low water dips, will require expensive upgrading, we are told. Whether property owners will get a rebate on their annual fees if the county picks up part of the tab is something to be decided later by the respective POAs.

We're not going to suggest that county taxpayers taking on road maintenance of two large private subdivisions is good policy or bad. The more important questions here are: Why now, how much will the taxpayers be in for, and is this just another one of those late-coming developer bailouts?

If Commissioner Conley is signaling to the POAs at WN and WS that the county can handle the added expenditures, we'd sure like to know. Lately he has gone through great pains to publicly explain his attempts to cut $1.5 million in expenditures from the new county budget to forestall a tax increase. He wasn't successful with the cuts and the tax increase is coming. So where will he get the money to take on additional, very costly road maintenance?

Mr. Conley has a history of courting particular constituents of his with generous deeds utilizing our county road crews and taxpayer paid contractors and materials. One thing Conley is good at doing, and that's piling on expenditures, distributing the goods, and then looking the other way when budget writing time comes along. We're hoping this is not another one of those cases.

Perhaps going forward
, commissioners court should consider adopting a fair, honest and objective cost-benefit model for when the taxpayers are being "asked" to take on more roads and more spending.

While he's out assessing whose private roads he wants the county to adopt next, Conley should take a trip up Dara Lane in his precinct, off RR 32. He'll need an all terrain vehicle to traverse it. No kidding, it's the kind of road our EMS and fire personnel have anxiety attacks over. You suppose he'll come to the aid of those economically less fortunate citizens on Dara Lane?

Voila! One sign, two roads

TxDOT has made good on its promise to place a new sign along FM 3237 with turn arrows for both Red Hawk Rd and Woodcreek Ranch Rd.

It's a happy ending for all concerned, and a tremendous victory over bureaucratic red tape. At one point, TxDOT was insisting that they just don't do two turn arrows on one sign pointing in the same direction.

Never underestimate the power of persistence, in this case one particular Red Hawk resident who saw this one through to the end. Folks on Red Hawk know who he is, but we don't have his permission to print his name. Thanks C. L. for being a stand up citizen and correcting something you felt needed a fairer outcome. Thanks also to Steve Floyd in the county's GIS 9-1-1 mapping department and Pct. 4 Commissioner Karen Ford for their creative intentions, and to Commissioner Conley, who came around late in the game in realizing that at times a little imagination can go a long way.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Congress's very own socialized medicine

What is rarely discussed outside the halls of Congress is the (OAP's) other role — providing a wealth of primary care medical services to senators, representatives and Supreme Court justices

Editor's note:
We borrowed this post from the lefty blog Daily Kos, just to make the point, once again, about how our congress people continue to fleece the taxpayers for their personal gold-platted health care while throwing crumbs to the masses. King Louie and Marie Antoinette had a saying for this kind treatment: "Let 'em eat cake."

Send your comments and news tips to or click on the "comments" button below the story

By mcjoan

How about (Congress's) socialized medical program? This is beyond the fantastic health plan they all have, courtesy of the American taxpayer, this is a perk they've kept largely secret through all this contentious debate about what Americans deserve for their health care. Via Matt, look at what they've provided themselves, their very own socialized medicine . . .

Formally called the Office of the Attending Physician, the clinic — and at least six satellite offices — bills its mission as one of emergency preparedness and public health. Each day, it stands ready to handle medical emergencies, biological attacks and the occasional fainting tourist visiting Capitol Hill.

Officially, the office acknowledges these types of services, including providing physicals to Capitol police officers and offering flu shots to congressional staffers. But what is rarely discussed outside the halls of Congress is the office’s other role — providing a wealth of primary care medical services to senators, representatives and Supreme Court justices.

Sources said when specialists are needed, they are brought to the Capitol, often at no charge to members of Congress.

Members of Congress do not pay for the individual services they receive at the OAP, nor do they submit claims through their federal employee health insurance policies. Instead, members pay a flat, annual fee of $503 for all the care they receive. The rest of the cost of their care, sources said, is subsidized by taxpayers.

Last year, Congress appropriated more than $3 million to reimburse the Navy for staff salaries at the office. Next year's budget allocates $3.8 million for the office, including more than half a million dollars to upgrade the Office's radiology suite. Sources said additional money to operate the office is included in the Navy's annual budget.

In 2008, 240 members paid the annual fee, though some sources say congressmen who didn't pay the fee were rarely prevented from using OAP services.