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Monday, November 30, 2009

Government center builders schedule meet 'n greet for subcontractors


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

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


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

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

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

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

Guns, Prop 2 and Hays County Politics


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


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

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

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

By Charles O'Dell, Ph.D.

RoundUp Contributor


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


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


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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Tuesday, November 24, 2009





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

Send us a note if anything interesting comes up.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Thoughts on politicians, Piranha and the public interest


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

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


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

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

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

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


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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Thursday, November 19, 2009

New "greenprinting" planning tool for Central Texas just released


The Greenprint is a powerful tool that helps local governments and communities make informed decisions about land conservation priorities, as well as development and infrastructure strategies

The Central Texas Greenprint for Growth final report is available online now at www.envisioncentraltexas.org. It includes a special Greenprint brochure for Hays County.

Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net, to scampbell@envisioncentraltexas.org, or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the page.


After the final round of County Stakeholder input meetings this past summer, staff members from the Trust for Public Land, the Capital Area Council of Governments and Envision Central Texas worked on pulling all the pieces together into a richly illustrated, nearly 50-page report.

The report explains the Greenprint process and provides detailed maps and information on the six conservation goals, as well as overall regional opportunities. The report then highlights local implementation strategies developed by the County Stakeholder Groups, as well as conservation funding options. Also included in the report is detailed information about each county and a Level of Service analysis comparing parkland in Central Texas counties to similar counties in other areas.

A tremendous amount of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data has been used in the development of the Central Texas Greenprint for Growth. After County Stakeholder Groups identified their conservation goals (e.g. preserving water quality, creating recreational opportunities, etc.), corresponding GIS data was used to convert those goals to mappable layers (e.g. aquifers, floodplains, soil types, etc.).

Once these data layers were "weighted" (click here to view the Criteria Matrix) and prioritized by Stakeholders, the Greenprint modeling system produced color-coded composite maps that identify where communities can most efficiently and effectively direct resources to meet their conservation goals.


About the report


The Central Texas Greenprint for Growth (the "Greenprint") is a tool for balancing sustainable conservation goals with the infrastructure needs of our rapidly urbanizing region. Expanding on the Travis County Greenprint completed during the fall of 2006, Envision Central Texas, the Capital Area Council of Governments and the Trust for Public Land worked with stakeholders in Bastrop, Caldwell and Hays Counties to develop the Central Texas Greenprint.

The process was conducted between the spring of 2008 and the summer of 2009, with hundreds of stakeholders providing input about their conservation goals and priorities. Utilizing the Trust for Public Land's unique Geographic Information Systems mapping and modeling technology, the process produced graphic illustrations highlighting opportunity areas for conservation that meet multiple goals.The Greenprint is a powerful tool that helps local governments and communities make informed decisions about land conservation priorities, as well as development and infrastructure strategies.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

On PEC Reform Front, more specifics from the watchdogs


"This most important reform – establishing basic member rights that can only be changed by member ratification - could be adopted now, without interfering even slightly with whatever comprehensive reforms might be adopted at some later time."


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

Note: The e-mails below from PEC watchdogs & members Carlos Higgins, Milton Hawkins and Joe Summy (all long time PEC watchers) spell out in more detail some of the big concerns being raised about the direction and intentions of PEC's new 'reform-minded' board of directors.

Learn more about the pec4u watchdog discussion group at pec4u.org Click on the link 'Keep Informed! Join Watchdogs.' Email: watchdogs@pec4u.org

Fyi, we received our first rebate check in the mail yesterday – $5.78, with a balance of $306.06. The letter accompanying the check says "we felt that issuing a check would better represent your financial participation as a member-owner." Thank you PEC and board. May I just say in response that my financial participation would be more efficiently served by crediting my account and skipping the expense of the 44-cents first class stamp. Taking a conservative guess that 100,000 rebate letters were sent in the first round . . . that would be an expenditure of $44,000 in postage alone. That kind of money might be better invested elsewhere.
B. Ochoa/Editor

In Making Promised Reforms: This PEC Board Gets a Failing Grade

We need to keep our eyes on the ball, and that’s reform. First, though, was it prudent for our PEC Board to return our capital credits in the form of small checks instead of simply crediting those dollars to our monthly bills? Of course not! The expense to generate and mail all those checks was a waste of our PEC money, and it’s an additional nuisance and expense for us to get those checks cashed or get them to our bank accounts. Worse, the Board apparently sent out the checks to “educate” us about the benefits of being co-op member/owners. Please! We recognize the benefits. It’s the RIGHTS of being co-op members we are after.

The Board can divert our attention by making these kinds of poor decisions, but we need to stay focused on the major issue this Board is neglecting. Reform!

When do we get a Board that’ll represent PEC members? The members of our previous Board, whether you blame it on their self-serving support for the culprits or oblivious ignorance, fiddled while PEC coffers were raided. Now, what kind of Board did we elect?

Not a “reform” board. The old Board, under public pressure and Court settlement mandates, put in place what few reforms we have. But those reforms are entirely inadequate. They offer no security to member/owners. The Board can change those reforms at will.

Our new Board members are failing to live up to their reform promises. For example, in a letter to the Hays Free Press in March, Larry Landaker said, “If elected, I will introduce permanent reform with member-written By-Laws that can only be changed by member ratification.” He asked for our votes as a reform candidate.

Foolish us, I suppose. We didn’t ask Larry when he’d get around to the reforms. We just assumed from what he said that he actually meant what he said, and that it would be soon.

One reason given for delay in revising the Bylaws is that no changes should be made until the entire set of Bylaws can be carefully studied and a comprehensive revision offered. That’s B.S.It does not take rocket-science or word-smithing by a world class lawyer to go ahead and make clear in the Bylaws right now that certain basic issues are to be decided by the member/owners rather than by the Board alone.

This most important reform – establishing basic member rights that can only be changed by member ratification - could be adopted now, without interfering even slightly with whatever comprehensive reforms might be adopted at some later time. The number of Directors and Districts, for example, can easily be decided later. Let’s get on with first things first.

(Note: Thanks, Board member Williams, for your common sense in voting against wasting our money by sending out all those checks. Now, let’s see the reforms we were promised.)

Carlos Higgins
Member since 1974
CarlosTX@sbcglobal.net




Friends,

As you may know by now, the Board has revised its timeline for revision of the Bylaws. You will recall that until a few months ago, following last year's election and the redrawing of director districts, the almost universal expectation was that the coming 2010 election would feature directors running in, and selected only by the members living in, seven separate districts. Districts affected in 2010 would be District 4, a seat now held by O.C. Harmon, and District 5, a seat now held by R.B. Felps.

The expectation was that the new Board majority would quickly revise the Bylaws to provide for single-member-district voting in the newly aligned and balanced districts. However, in what was presented by the Board majority as a means to allow for a comprehensive evaluation and revision of the Bylaws, eliminating any internal contradictions and any inconsistencies with respect to provisions of the Articles of Incorporation and the Electric Cooperatives Corporation Act, a timeline was developed that put final Board acceptance of the revised Bylaws well past the 2010 election deadlines. And in keeping with that intention and timeline, the Board majority successfully resisted any proposals to make piecemeal changes to the Bylaws, especially proposals to provide for single-member-district voting and term limits.

It now appears that the Board, thanks to some process streamlining suggested by Pete Slover, and perhaps to some pressure from member/owners wanting change much sooner, has developed a plan that allows the Bylaws Committee to complete its work and make its recommendations to the Board in February. Action by the Board then would allow the 2010 election to be conducted in accordance with the revised Bylaws, assuming that the election scheme in the revised Bylaws required no change in the Articles of Incorporation.

(Changing the number of directors from the number specified in the Articles, seven, would, for example, require a change in the Articles, and that change would have to be approved by the membership for it to become effective. The membership could vote in June of 2010 to approve the change, and that change would be effective for the 2011 election.)

Now to the meat of the matter. In my estimation, there is not now a majority on the Board in favor of single-member-district voting. For various reasons, at least four directors appear to favor keeping the at-large scheme we now have. Some fear the parochialism that tends to affect single-member-district representation; others recognize, and wish to maintain, the power that well-organized political or interest groups have to influence the outcome of at-large elections. There are others who would like to allow time to consider adding several directors elected at-large to mitigate the possible narrow interests served by directors elected from single-member districts and to add balance to the Board.

In any event, if left to its own desires, a majority of the Board would probably receive, and approve, an election plan that kept the present at-large voting scheme, with candidates running for the seat in the district in which they reside, but being selected by voters from all seven districts. The necessity of running an at-large campaign does add to the labor and cost of campaigning, the necessity of considering candidates from seven different districts does add to the burden of the voters, and there are other considerations as well. But that is the result we are likely to see if the majority of the Board members are left to settle the matter as they wish.

Fortunately, another outcome is possible. The new timeline of Bylaws revision and Board approval calls for public forums, presentation of information of the PEC web site, with a provision for member/owner reaction and input, and of course public comments at the December, January, and February Board meetings. If we are to see a change in the election process resulting in single-member-district voting in June of 2010, those who favor that approach had better make their voices heard and their opinions known. You are going to have to establish a position that the majority of the directors cannot comfortably ignore.

And those of us who favor a mixed or hybrid system, with a number of directors (I would say seven) elected from single-member districts, by voters living in those districts, and another number of directors (I would suggest two) elected at-large, by voters in every district, had better decide that we should take the step available now (single-member-district voting) and push for the additional step (the at-large directors) later, when the need might be more apparent.

This is not complicated. It's a matter of numbers and publicity. If enough member/owners make their positions known, by public comments at PEC forums and Board and committee meetings, and by written comments addressed to the Board or posted on the web site when that is on line, the directors will get the message, which will be reinforced by media coverage.

Of course the advocates of at-large voting will have their say as well, but theirs is a harder case to make. Defending the status quo against attractive change is always difficult, but especially so when the existing system has produced the results this one has. We have suffered for years under the reign of previous Boards and their chosen leaders and managers, and, speaking frankly, and given the field of candidates, we have been very lucky the last two election cycles. Regardless of your view of the incumbent directors (and I have some regard for them all, and much regard for some), we could have done much worse, very much worse.

So it's time to speak your piece where it can be heard, and write it where it can be read, and do so where it can all be reported. I realize that it's rather presumptuous of me to set this all out in this fashion, but I think the matter deserves attention here and elsewhere. Forgive the presumption, and do your part.

Milton
Milton Hawkins
mhawkins@tstar.net
830-868-9075




Milton....excellent. You have addressed the issues as succinctly as possible. May I use this in my online column...unedited of course?

As you and I have observed concerning the present board, it is, unfortunately, the natural process for politicians to consolidate power, and power is too often a corrupting factor in partisan politics...no matter who is in the majority. A myopic vision to control becomes the overriding hidden agenda of the controllers.

It is only with a watchful eye from those observing from "the outside looking in" that the powers to be are often held accountable.

Your public leadership in this area is important; don't worry about being presumptuous...it is needed.

From a separate e-mail:

Here is one "reform" the board passed at Monday's meeting to be more "open and transparent"...the PEC will now provide any member with a list of co-op members and their mailing addresses for limited and justifiable reasons...the only justifiable reason listed was for candidates running for the board. What are the other justifiable reasons?

There is no opt-out provision for members as indicated at the last board meeting. In addition, a member's request to opt-out will not be honored.

How does providing a membership list to a candidate have anything to do with openness and transparency?

Where was the membership input on this issue?

My wife has spent the last few years trying to get us off of mailing lists.

This is an unnecessary invasion of individual privacy, which as Director Williams pointed out at the last meeting, is not required by the PEC.

Once again, Director Williams using common sense voted against this "openness reform" policy.

Joe Summy
Johnson City
joesummy@moment.net

River authority looks east for groundwater to serve new development


The GBRA is an exception.Virtually all the water in the GBRA's main reservoir, Canyon Lake, is spoken for, so to meet expanding demand, the river authority needs to buy water from other sources and has already announced its intention to go after groundwater


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

From the Austin American-Statesman

Read the whole story at this link: http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/2009/11/18/1118waterpipe.html


By Asher Price

AMERICAN STATESMAN STAFF

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority is negotiating a deal with a water developer that would pump as much as 45 million gallons of water per day from Bastrop and Lee counties to the San Marcos area for distribution to burgeoning development southeast of Austin, river authority officials have said.


The river authority, which serves Buda, Kyle, San Marcos, Lockhart and Luling, would buy water from End-Op, a company run by former Williamson County Commissioner Frankie Limmer, and pay as much as $100 million to build a pipeline for its delivery, according to river authority General Manager Bill West. The GBRA could then spend tens of millions more to buy the water rights and wells from End-Op, which has negotiated water leases with landowners.


So far, there have been no public hearings and no public comment has been sought on the proposed agreement. Its terms would be laid out in a letter of intent that the river authority board was expected to consider at its meeting today but will probably postpone until December, said LaMarriol Smith, a spokeswoman for the GBRA. At that time, the board could also issue a request for bids for the financing and construction of the pipeline itself.


Depending on the wording, such a letter could effectively commit the river authority to End-Op for groundwater supplies for at least the next two years as both sides try to iron out a long-term contract. Given future population projections, the proposed deal could put a straw in the aquifer big enough to suck up much of the annual available groundwater in the Bastrop area within 50 years.


It could also transform the nonprofit GBRA from the underling of Central Texas river authorities to a water magnate, putting it in prime position to sell water along the southern half of Texas 130, the half-built tollway that will run from north of Georgetown to Seguin, where the GBRA has its headquarters. The corridor is considered Austin's preferred growth area by policymakers.


"The area's not going to grow unless you got water," said David Davenport, general manager of the Canyon Regional Water Authority, which works with cities and water supply corporations south of Austin to develop drinking water supplies.


Anticipating that need, water prospectors such as End-Op have been vying to snatch up underground water leases beneath counties to the east. They have been frustrated, however, by the seeming lack of interest by major water suppliers in the Austin and San Antonio areas.


The prospectors need partners with deep pockets to pay for the massive infrastructure required to ship millions of gallons of water daily across the heart of Texas. Government partners are especially prized because of their high bond ratings and power of condemnation to obtain rights of way relatively cheaply.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

December PEC bills to reflect lower power cost


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 16, 2009

TO: All PEC-area newspapers

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


Pedernales Electric members will pay a reduced rate for electricity beginning with bills rendered on or after Dec. 1. The Cooperative is reducing the total cost of power by $0.002 per kilowatt-hour for the majority of its members, including all residential members. A reduction of $0.00196 per kwh will be passed through to PEC’s primary service (commercial and industrial) members.


The average residential member’s monthly bill will be reduced by about $2 with the revised power cost adjustment rate.


“The reduced power cost rate reflects our objective to provide service to members at the lowest possible rate,” said PEC General Manager Juan Garza. “Every little bit of savings counts, especially considering the economic situation over the past couple of years.”


PEC uses both actual and forecasted figures to chart collections from members, with a goal of staying within one percent of its annual forecasted power cost. The Cooperative’s revised rates structure, which went into effect Aug. 1, separated PEC’s purchased power costs from its cost of providing service. This type of rates structure gives PEC the ability to adjust rates to better reflect the actual cost of power, as indicated by the reduced power cost adjustment rate.

PEC Board President Larry Landaker emphasized the flexibility the rates structure provides. “The new rates structure enhances our ability to adjust to the market and pass on savings more directly to our membership. This helps us adhere to our duty to operate the Cooperative in a fiscally sound manner while not overlooking our responsibility to the membership.”

More information about PEC’s rates is available at www.pec.coop/About/Rates.aspx.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Shoe's on the other foot? PEC Board 'reformists' are catching some heat


If this Board refuses to act in the best interests of PEC members, then, as in any democracy, we go back to the ballot to elect those who will act in our best interests


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

Note: The cross talk on the pec4u watchdog discussion group is growing louder with complaints that the new "reform" members of PEC's board of directors are not moving fast enough on promised reforms. During their campaigns, for instance, Larry Landaker, Patrick Cox and Cristi Clement promised term limits, transparency in decision-making and vastly improved financial management to eliminate waste. Apparently, waste, debt, complacency and "fixed" board meetings are old problems that continue to linger. Term limits has been placed in the "review" box. Lots of committees have been created, but so far no big reforms to write home about.

The critics are calling for less show and more reforms
Outside of nice press releases we get from the PEC that barely scratch the surface, we hardly know anything about what's really going on inside PEC management. Maybe everything is peachy keen and the critics are barking up the wrong trees. But many legitimate cost & management-related questions are being asked like 'why is our co-op spending $300,000 to mail rebates to its customer/members when it could easily credit the rebates to bills?' 'Why does the PEC continue to hang on to money losing ventures like the Kimble Electric Co-op which PEC purchased back in the day for $15 million when it was worth $8 million?' And 'when will PEC's General Manager Juan Garza start doing the bidding of the reform board and not vice versa?'

Board President Landaker & District 7 rep Cox both are Wimberley boys. It'd be nice if they'd drop us members a line every once in a while to help clear up these questions, without the spin. Couldn't be that hard, could it?


Learn more about the watchdog discussion group at this link:
http://pec4u.org/?page_id=69

****************

Here's a sampling of e-mails being passed around of late (with slight editing for punctuation):


There's a short answer and a long answer to why PEC is instituting a costly means of distributing capital credits this year. There's also a real answer to this. It's the same answer as to the question of why Social Security & VA recipients are NOT getting a COLA increase for the next two years, but are having individual $250 checks mailed out to each of us. It's to buy the loyalty of those who are naive enough to be bought by those established in power & doing everything they can to remain there. Make no mistake as to the lengths they will go.

Ed Gunter



Ed,

There are several links to support your view; here are three:

1. The refusal of the reform candidates to address continual election reforms. Burying issues in committee for more study is an old political tactic.
2. The lack of outrage by the supporters of the reform candidates concerning the election reforms many wanted. There was plenty of outrage when the shoe was on the other foot.
3. It appears the decisions are being made by the reform candidates before the monthly meetings actually take place.

There has already been more 4-3 votes than under the old guard, which never blocked any of the reforms, and in fact, initiated the election reforms before the reform candidates were elected.

What we have is just the same power consolidation that the reformers criticized the old board.

Joe Summy
Johnson City



Heretofore, PEC has been run as a private fief by three strong kingfish – Fuelberg, Burnet and Morisund. The Board of Directors just went along for the merry ride. Then the famous lawsuit broke up the playhouse.

Elected, reform minded Directors came on the scene. I believe that all of us expected them to start working to cut costs, stop frivolous spending and demand that Management give a true accounting of the company finances. WELL, not so far.

When can we expect the Directors to instruct their employees to stop the waste of money and start reasonable accounting practices? If the Directors cannot get PEC to do basic, rudimentary, reasonable business practices, how will they ever get to more complicated matters: like reducing the mass of employees, like reducing the number of relatives employed. Matters like eliminating sections of PEC that are big money-losses, matters like insuring respectable purchasing and contracting practices .

Paul Langston 830-598-1322



Linda Kaye Rogers wrote:
Bravo, the light is on!! The micro-managing is indeed slowing things down. And it is precisely what a board is NOT suppose to do. And the Reform 4 think that they are doing what we, the members want!! I would believe that if they were listening to the members, but they are not. They are conducting their own ego show and wasting our time and money. Worse yet, is the blatant ignorance of PEC affairs that is so evident among these four. And they are unwilling to listen to the many professionals we have who do know what to do and how to do it. I am very disgusted, embarassed and sad about what is happening in our coop. These actions will only make other coops more reticent to follow our lead in democaracy and transparancy. I don't blame them if this is what happens. We have a chance to be a leader in moving coops into the 21st Century – instead, we are becoming a laughing stock. Yes, I hear from others outside our coop, who are watching things, and they are not impressed. They are amazed at the poor quality of our "elected" directors, Mr. Williams aside. We may have been hood-winked by Fuelberg and Burnett, but at least our coop had respect (in spite of shenanigans!!). I am far angrier about this atrocious behavior, lack of action, show-boating for individual ego, than some of what went on before. That was behind my back, but this is "in my face" and with an attitutde that smacks of exactly what we worked to get rid of. So what do we do now?
Linda Kaye



Linda Kaye:

I find myself in the peculiar position of defending the current Board even though I am very disappointed in their failure to address issues that I have raised.

To what are you referring when you state that the Board is micromanaging? Please provide examples.

With the old PEC Board we had lawsuit depositions and discovery, and the Navigant Report to document their miserable governance including both errors of omission and commission. With the current Board I am aware of several failures to act, most particularly, to enforce the Open Records Policy, to instruct General Manager Garza to substantially reduce controllable expenses, to suspend the granting of bonuses until these controllable expenses are substantially reduced, and to enact reforms. I would prefer that criticisms such as unwilling to listen to the many professionals we have, atrocious behavior, lack of action, show-boating for individual ego be accompanied by concrete examples. I suspect that the current PEC Board would disagree about their "lack of action," given all those committee meetings. With the exception of wasting member money on all those committee meetings, to my knowledge the current PEC Board has committed only errors of omission, at least to the extent that they have not acted fast enough to please some of us.

Who are those well-informed others outside our co-op and what are they saying? By what measures are our "elected" directors judged to be of "poor quality," and by whom? What do those well-informed others outside our co-op have to say about the quality of our old Board of Directors?

As I previously stated, I will give this Board one year to accomplish the reforms that a lot of us were expecting with the election of the newest members. Based upon current progress, I am not particularly hopeful.

Come now Linda Kaye, are you arguing seriously that the co-op had respect under the Fuelberg and Burnett? We were the laughing stock of the country to allow these clowns and their lackeys to ride roughshod over the members and PEC employees for decades.

If this Board refuses to act in the best interests of PEC members, then, as in any democracy, we go back to the ballot to elect those who will act in our best interests.

Merle



Dear Merle:

All of us are impatient. I do not agree that we should wait for a year to see how the new "Reform" Board works out.

I thought that the new Board would have done their home work well in advance and would have been ready to start swinging a sharp axe the day they sat down. Instead, they seem to be in a "learning mode." Both Garza and The new "Reform Board" seem to be playing a waiting game, waiting on each other. The New Board seems to have no priorities.

The Board is the Boss of the show. All they have to do is tell Juan Garza what to do and let him get about it. Mr. Garza has almost two years inside the inner circle of PEC and he has hired a complete crew of able, well-paid executives.

For Example, if the Board ordered Juan Garza to cut the overhead of PEC by 30% within the year 2010, or else, Mr. Garza knows exactly how to get it done.

If the Board insists on "micro-managing" Garza's job, giving him intricate instructions on each item, strained and filtered thru Robert's Rules et al, Mr. Garza only has to mark time, do exactly as ordered and he is at leisure/safe. But, very little will get done.

Best Regards, Paul Langston 830-598-1322

Friday, November 13, 2009

Shades of things to come? TWDB hears latest round in regional water spat




Cow Creek Board President Tommy Mathews says it is vitally important to residents in the Cow Creek District to have planning documents that state a desired future condition of “no net increase in average drawdown” for the Edwards-Trinity . . .


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


Editor's Note:
The Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District is currently developing its own "desired future conditions" review and report, due September of 2010. Scroll down to the 'TCEQ' story for more details. The story below is a primer, possibly, of what to expect when the District completes its plan and the clash begins anew between the varying interests here at home. Nobody said it was gonna be easy – drawing up a plan with best practices and management of our groundwater that will please everybody AND preserve what we've got left for existing well owners.

From the Boerne Star
Published: Friday, November 6, 2009 11:13 AM CST

Read the whole story here: http://boernestar.com/articles/2009/11/06/top_stories/doc4af45337a61ae198466700.txt

By Dave Pasley, staff writer


Another round in a battle between Hill Country water planners was fought in Kerrville Monday at a Texas Water Development Board hearing.

The conflict centers on a decision about “desired future conditions” made on Aug. 29, 2008, by the executive committee of Groundwater Management Area 9, which is made up of one representative from each of the groundwater districts in Kendall, Bandera, Blanco, Comal, Hays, Kendall, Kerr, Medina, Travis and northern Bexar counties.

The GMA-9 committee voted to set a desired future condition of “no net increase in average drawdown” for what is known as the Edwards-Trinity (Plateau) Aquifer. The Plateau Water Planning Group and the Upper Guadalupe River Authority, both based in Kerr County, contend that would be unreasonably burdensome for property owners in western Kerr County.

Led by Kerr County Precinct 3 Commissioner Jonathan Letz, the Plateau Group and the river authority appealed to the TWDB to overturn the GMA-9 decision.

In September Cow Creek GCD directors sent a letter to the TWDB protesting the appeals and taking the TWDB to task for waiving the deadline and accepting the appeals.

Monday’s hearing was held to allow TWDB officials to hear arguments from officials on both sides of the conflict.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Commissioner Ford: 'I'm having a face to face meeting with Mike Farr'


"I am not out to get Mike Farr or shut down his business — contrary to what someone has led him to believe, or what he wants you to believe — for whatever reason."


Note:
See story below for more details. Maybe Mr. Farr will get back to us (and the rest of the world) with the results of his meeting with Ms. Ford.

Please believe I had no intention, desire, or gave any orders to shut down Nutty Brown Café – and certainly not on a night that benefited a young woman from Dripping Springs who is ill. That would be alien to my value system, beyond my authority, and politically stupid.

I have enjoyed music, food and drinks at Nutty Brown Café on numerous occasions. And while I know there are a number of citizens who would
like to see the venue shut down due to the noise and nuisance, the county has no authority here. I believe Mr. Farr stays within the law on noise levels, and goes beyond on hours of music, shutting it down at 11 pm when he could let it play longer. I understand that Mr. Farr has been generous in this community through donations of his time, place and money. I have attended benefits at the venue, and I’ve defended him on these points.

I am not out to get Mike Farr or shut down his business — contrary to what someone has led him to believe, or what he wants you to believe — for whatever reason.

As with any business in Hays County, it must operate within the limits of the law. If there are potential mass gathering situations or violations, we will work with Mr. Farr to ensure legal requirements are met. He seems very aware of these requirements and desirous to stay within them.


Mr. Farr and I have scheduled for a face to face meeting this week in hopes of sorting this all out.


If you would like to discuss further, please call me at my office in Dripping Springs, 512-858-7268.


Thank you.

Karen Ford

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Showdown at the Nutty Brown Café


"County Commissioner Karen Ford was elected to represent the interests of her constituency.
Does attempting to shut down, cite or impede a legally-compliant event putting $18,000 in the hands of a "Dripping Springs resident in need" accomplish that?"
–– Mike Farr, Gen. Partner, Nutty Brown Café

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


Update, Wednesday Nov. 11 -- Just got a call from Commissioner Ford. She said "every problem in the world is about (mis)communication . . . He (Farr) has been led to believe that I'm out to get him and I'm not." It appears there have been several miscues in this dust up – probably the biggest over whether Ford actually contacted Sheriff Tommy Ratliff and demanded enforcement action against Nutty Brown for a mass gathering permit violation.

Ford says she made no such demand: "(County special counsel) Mark Kennedy called me and said we had citizens bring up some potential violations of mass gatherings at Nutty Brown Café. (Someone anonymously sent it to him and we know who it is). I asked what does it look like and how do we look at it even if we wanted to do anything about it . . . we should let Mike know and give him an opportunity to comply. I did call Tommy about it and asked if the sheriff could enforce it and how they would go about doing that. But never did I tell him I wanted him to do anything. We were just exploring what that mass gathering violation would mean. I called Tommy back (after talking to Mike Farr) and asked, did anything I say lead you to believe I wanted to shut down Nutty Brown Cafe and he said absolutely not."

Ford says Nutty Brown has been legally compliant going back at least three years when she and two sheriff's office representatives checked the outdoor concert noise levels and found them to be within the legal limit. "I came away from that meeting feeling that Mike was fully compliant and actually exceeding compliance in some issues." What does Ford tell neighbors who complain (constantly) about the loud noise? "There is nothing we can do. They are compliant within the current laws and end of story as far as what the county can do."

Ford says she wants to bury the hatchet with Farr. "Mike Farr is a generous member of our community . . . I reached out to him with an e-mail today . . . the truth is I do not have a vendetta against him and I am not working with disgruntled neighbors."

Editor's Note: We spoke with Mike Farr today about his open letter, below, wherein he raises some high decibel charges against Pct. 4 County Commissioner Karen Ford. Mr. Farr is general partner of the popular restaurant and outdoor entertainment venue Nutty Brown Café on Hwy 290, east of Dripping Springs. He was pretty animated in insisting that he stands by what he says and will not back down to political harassment. We've sent an e-mail to Commissioner Ford for a response. There's a long back story to this little flareup that could probably use some clear & open airing. We hope to report on it in upcoming posts.

Nutty Brown Café & Amphitheatre

November 7,2009


Last night, on November 6, 2009 Nutty Brown Café & Amphitheatre and Randy Rogers Band combined efforts to host the "My Breath of Life Benefit" for Amberlyn Fett. Amberlyn Fett is a young lady from Dripping Springs who has suffered from the physical, emotional and financial effects of Cystic Fibrosis her entire 20 years of life. I have known Amberlyn and her mom (Deb) for quite some time. Amberlyn has always been a big fan of Randy Rogers Band and back in August, I introduced the two backstage at Nutty Brown. They hit it off immediately and soon Randy Rogers was asking me what we could do to help Amberlyn and her family with their ever increasing medical bills.

From there our benefit was born. Just a few weeks before we were to
have our benefit, a match was found from an organ donor and Amberlyn finally received a new pair of lungs. Amberlyn is presently recovering in a hospital in San Antonio. Our prayers and thoughts are with her.

I am writing to let everyone in Hays County know that the benefit we had for Amberlyn Fett was
a huge success with just under $18,000 raised for Amberlyn. I also want to let as many Hays County residents as possible know that this success was in spite of County Commissioner Karen Ford's inquiries with local officials about having Nutty Brown cited and/or possibly having the benefit shut-down for lack of a Mass Gathering Permit.

Mass Gathering Permits are
typically required for any type of promoted event held outside the jurisdiction of a municipality where 2,500 people or more are expected to attend. The problem with Ms. Ford's desire to see me fined, jailed and/or the benefit shut-down was Nutty Brown didn't need a "Mass Gathering Permit" as we are in the Austin Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction and our benefit was a fully legal and fully compliant event. When I first heard of Ms. Ford's interest in having me jailed, fined and/or the benefit shut-down I honestly couldn't believe it. Is it possible that a County Commissioner would place her own ego and her own misguided political will over the health and welfare of a young lady lying in a hospital bed in San Antonio recovering from a lung transplant she has literally waited her entire life for? How could that be.

To that end, I reached out to Ms. Ford via telephone last night to have her confirm or deny her interest in seeing our legally-compliant benefit impeded or shut-down. After leaving Ms. Ford a message, she called me back an hour or so later and I asked her point-blank if she had spoken to any local or state officials about having Nutty Brown cited and/or the benefit we had scheduled shut-down over "Mass Gathering Permit" issues. She quickly assured me she had not spoken to any officials about this matter save for County Attorney Mark Kennedy. I then asked her if one of her subordinates or perhaps the County Attorney had inquired on her behalf in this matter. Again she immediately assured me none had done so.

This conversation went
on for a bit as I attempted to rephrase the question a few times to possibly eliminate some of the wiggle-room I felt Ms. Ford was clinging to in order to avoid acknowledging her role in seeing myself and the benefit punished and/or halted. Gradually, I shared with her more and more of the sources from which I was informed of her efforts ... each time inviting her to tell me the truth about her role. Each time she denied having personally spoken to anyone at anytime about this matter.

Finally, with all the wiggle-room gone in the face of the mounting list of credible witnesses I had
spoken with Ms. Ford "remembered" that she had, in fact, spoken to officials (including the Hays County Sheriff's Office) about the benefit concert we were hosting and whether or not we could be cited and/or shut-down for violating the "Mass Gathering Permit" requirements. I am not making this up ... she suddenly "remembered."

At 7 minutes and 7 seconds into a phone
call discussing one single topic ... 7 minutes and 7 seconds of repeated denials that any inquiry/attempts had been made by her ... 7 minutes and 7 seconds OF REPEATED LIES she conveniently "remembered."

When I pointed out that she had lied to me for the past 7 minutes and 7 seconds about trying to
impede or shut-down a charity event benefiting a Dripping Springs resident afflicted with Cystic Fibrosis, Ms. Ford refused to acknowledge lying. She said she had only failed to "remember" her actions even though they had happened THAT DAY and even though it was the singular topic of the first 7 minutes and 7 seconds of our conversation. I told her that she had lied to me ... period.

I told her that I knew she had lied and that she knew she had lied and that the
classic politician's claim of not "remembering" was an unacceptable response to the matter. After a few more repeated denials of lying to me I offered to drop the whole thing on the spot if she would just acknowledge that she had lied about her role. I offered to keep this whole affair to myself and never mention it again if she would just do the right thing and admit she had lied to me ... I told her I didn't even need an apology for the lie ... just an admission that she had lied. Again, she refused to do so.

I told Ms. Ford I would make it a point to tell anyone and everyone
I knew about her attempts to impede a benefit concert for a local resident and the lies she told in the cover-up those efforts. Ms. Ford warned me "to not go down that road with her." Again, I am quoting, she said "YOU DO NOT WANT TO GO DOWN THAT ROAD WITH ME, MIKE FARR." Alas, the bullying had begun.

In many ways she is right. It is probably not the smartest thing to "go down that road with her"
right now in the face of the recent protest filed against the renewal of Nutty Brown's permit to sell alcohol. Though I am completely confident we will prevail in that matter, the last thing I need right now is the County Commissioner looking to settle political scores against me and/or my business. Particularly a County Commissioner clearly comfortable abusing her power and operating in a world of lies, intimidation, deceit and poor memory function. But I simply can not remain silent on this matter. I refuse to be bullied by County Commissioner Ford regardless of my present situation. So I am writing this letter to anyone and everyone that cares to hear about this grievous example of an elected official attempting to run roughshod over their constituents.

County Commissioner Karen Ford was elected to represent the interests of her constituency.
Does attempting to shut down, cite or impede a legally-compliant event putting $18,000 in the hands of a "Dripping Springs resident in need" accomplish that? Does repeatedly lying to one of her constituents serve that purpose? Does threatening and bullying a constituent represent the high standard of her elected office?

I am hopeful the electorate of Hays County will answer these questions next fall.


Mike Farr

General Partner

Nutty Brown Enterprises, LP
12225
Highway 290 West Austin, Texas 78737

Friday, November 6, 2009

TCEQ report looks at options to plug holes in Hays, Travis & Comal groundwater management


The agency has had to play catch up after many years and changes in state law mandating the creation of groundwater management districts in the state where groundwater shortages are expected


Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net or click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story
TCEQ draft report. Click to enlarge.
Note: We'll have periodic updates (along with relevant links) on this important story as they develop, and keep our eyes peeled for the behind-the-scenes politicking that is sure to follow. We are told that the process, from draft report to a final order of the Commission, can take ten to 20 months.

By Bob Ochoa

RoundUp Editor

Will the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, with jurisdiction over western Hays County, be expanded to include southwest Travis County and western Comal County and receive sufficient funding to effectively manage the region's diminishing groundwater resources?

This is one of the central take out questions of a draft report now circulating from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). "Our goal is to have a good solid final report ready about January," said Kelly Mills of TCEQ's Groundwater Planning and Assessment office.

After a public comment period that ends Wednesday, Nov. 11, Mills said the process is likely to lead to a contested hearing called by the State Office of Administrative Hearings and end with a final order by the three-member Commission, or get referred to the Legislature for action.

"Our report is a policy report," Mills told the RoundUp. "We're not looking at or trying to make the argument or case that the area has groundwater problems. In our minds that case was made in 1990. The statute says once designated as a PGMA (priority groundwater management area), it cannot be changed."

In 1990, The Texas Water Development Board designated five Hill Country counties as a critical groundwater management area, along with western Hays County, the southwestern quadrant of Travis County and a chunk of western Comal County. Studies found a steady decline in the region's water table since 1920 and the Water Board concluded that "the area's groundwater demand would (eventually) exceed availability."

Members of the Hays Trinity GCD board have repeatedly warned that time already has arrived in western Hays County. District staff are currently compiling a "desired future conditions" review to determine the maximum amount of groundwater pumping it can permit. The process must be completed by September of 2010. District board president Doug Wierman says creek and stream flows and drought are being factored in. "
Onion Creek, until two weeks ago, hasn't had a flow for two years. If you don't care about springs and creeks flowing then there is more in the aquifer to be used."

Wierman said the board is preparing a response to the TCEQ draft report. A consensus seems to be forming around one of the report's recommended options to combine the Hays groundwater district with southwest Travis and western Comal counties. Wierman said he'd like to see the new district come with full Chapter 36 (Texas Water Code) authority and receive adequate funding to carry out its mission.

"Just the fact they prepared this report tells us they're serious about this issue that has been lingering for many years," Wierman said. "We knew it was under development but no idea of the timing."
Click on graphic to enlarge

Since 1990, Bandera, Blanco, Gillespie, Kendall and Kerr counties and western Hays have formed groundwater districts to manage the resources of the Trinity Aquifer. The Hays Trinity District was formed in 2000 through special legislation that left it with less management authority and fewer funding sources than its sister districts. Voters in western Comal and southwest Travis have turned down attempts to create their own districts.

TCEQ's Mills said the agency has had to play catch up after many years and changes in state law mandating the creation of groundwater management districts in the state where groundwater shortages exist or are expected, and it has finally come around to addressing the holes in part of what is known as the Hill Country PGMA. The holes are southwestern Travis County, western Comal and the Hays Trinity GCD.

The report notes that the minimum funding amount for a groundwater district to operate effectively
is $250,000. The Hays Trinity District's permit-based funding brings in only about $80,000 annually, which is assisted by a $100,000 grant from Hays County and that could change depending on the temperament of the county commissioners court. Critics of permit or production-based funding argue that they are counterproductive to conservation of groundwater in areas deemed short, or approaching a shortage.

According to TCEQ's report, most of the Hill Country PGMA districts are funded through voter approved ad valorem taxes, with an average rate of one and a half cents per hundred.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

North Hays firefighters lose, 748 to 667; developer wins, 1-0


The ESD board approved its sales tax proposition BEFORE Rose passed his HB4825, so he was in conflict with the firefighters from the get go. Rose knew what he was doing with his Special District, but pleads ignorance to avoid taking responsibility for his actions


Send your comments and news tips to online.editor@valleyspringcomm.net, to codell@austin.rr.com, and you can click on the "comments" button at the bottom of the story

Editor's Note: Voters yesterday in north Hays County said no to a one-cent increase in the sales tax to improve firefighting and emergency response services. The vote was 748 against and 667 for, according to election results posted by the Hays County elections office. Two other measures on the ballot, however, imposing a sales and ad valorem property tax for the Driftwood Municipal Management District, were passed handily, by a vote of 1 to 0. Now there's an interesting and eye-opening contrast in democracy in action and a special interest bill authored by State Rep. Patrick Rose. Read the posts below for more details and background.

See the Hays County results of Tuesday's election at this link (click on the November 3 Elections Results for a down loadable pdf file): http://www.elections.co.hays.tx.us/November032009ElectionResults/tabid/109/Default.aspx


Election Commentary

By Charles O'Dell

RoundUp Contributor

It reads like something the Dripping Springs Development Coordinator would write:
“None of the (Salt Lick Special District) tax revenue would fund the development costs. The tax revenue would only pay for road maintenance and other public costs that the city of Dripping Springs tax dollars would have paid for if this new district wasn't created.”

That’s shear nonsense. The City can’t annex property without approval of the developer, and Roberts didn’t agree to annexation so his Special District is in the City’s ETJ. Dripping Springs doesn’t spend tax dollars in its ETJ. It only collects development fees and taxes from the ETJ to feed the City officials insatiable spending. And what services does the City have to provide? Its $15 million central sewer serves only a special few inside the city limits. Dripping Springs is a taker – not a giver.


“The emergency services vote was not conflicting with Roberts' vote until very recently - and the conflict came about as a result of something that was out of Rose's control.“


Still more misinformation. The ESD board approved its sales tax proposition BEFORE Rose passed his HB4825, so he was in conflict with the firefighters from the get go. Rose knew what he was doing with his Special District, but pleads ignorance to avoid taking responsibility for his actions.


Here is what the Dripping Springs’ home boy created for Hays County taxpayers with his HB4825.


A Taxing Government Without Voter Accountability

The high-end Special District is governed by a board whose members are appointed by Hays County Commissioners’ Court and the Dripping Springs City Council. District residents can only vote for one County Commissioner and the County Judge. So District residents will be governed by a board appointed by ten elected officials, only two for whom residents can vote.


Taxes, Taxes and more Taxes

Sales taxes in the Special District are collected at the expense of fire fighters and other emergency jurisdictions that must still provide their services to the District. Together with a hotel occupancy tax and an excise tax, the sales tax will finance an array of developer costs approved by the appointed board. And if the developer wants home owners to help finance his development, the District can impose property taxes on the high-end home owners once residential lots are sold.


A Free Ride for the Developer


A developer typically invests in building roads, sewer and water lines and other utilities, and then floats bonds to reimburse his expenditures. These bonds are repaid through property taxes collected from homeowners. This developer will finance his infrastructure investment up front with an array of taxes. Mark my words – Dripping Springs city officials covet these taxes, which is why their hand is in this Special District pie.


Collateral Damage


Who pays for the public costs associated with all the destination tourists? Building larger public roads for visitors cost money and those costs are typically financed through public bonds the community at large repays through property taxes. The more visitors there are the greater the need for bonds and higher property taxes. But the Special District reaps all the sales, occupancy and user taxes, while property owners outside the District pay for the increased “public” costs: safety and emergency services; road building, maintenance and traffic risk; air and noise pollution; water and environmental degradation.


The Water Scam


While Roberts has touted his District as “green” and water friendly, the facts tell another story. Every acre of his vineyard already uses more groundwater than if those same acres were covered with 1/8 acre lot homes. Each mature grapevine plant requires about 16” of water during the growing season and that has to come from rain or irrigation. And it has to come at the right time. That’s about 353 gallons per plant. So water budget wise, nearby well owners are better off with more residential wells than with agricultural wells for vineyards.


Rose’s HB4825 demonstrates his commitment to his special interest, not to those constituents relying on their wells for drinking water.


Someone posted on the Roundup that the only real solution to these kinds of special interest/public official marriages is to vote the officials out of office. I agree. Anyone willing to run for state office? You would have a lot of voter support.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

North Hays County ESD sales tax issue is back on, throwing wrench in somebody's plan


If the ESD issue and the new Driftwood development sales tax issue pass, they will both be voided


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


Editor's Note: Uh oh.

Read the whole story at this link:
http://www.statesman.com/news/content/news/stories/local/2009/11/03/1103esd.
html


Austin American-Statesman

By Patrick George

AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


SAN MARCOS - The previously canceled sales tax referendum proposed to raise
money for firefighter salaries in northern Hays County is back on after state officials said Monday that, by law, the show must go on.

Though it was never taken off the ballot, the Hays County Emergency Services
District 6 proposal to raise the current 7-cent sales tax by 1 cent had been reported canceled Oct. 14. The district's board of directors decided to nix the election after learning it would compete with another sales tax referendum to fund a project by Salt Lick owner and developer Scott Roberts.

Roberts wants to raise the sales tax by 1.25 cents on items sold at the Salt
Lick to raise money for his proposed 540-acre residential and commercial Driftwood development. He would be the sole voter in that election.

However, passage of both referendums would push sales tax in the area to
9.25 cents - past the 8.25-cent legal limit set by the state. Should voters pass both referendums, both sales taxes would be voided. District 6 and the Driftwood Municipal Management District board, of which Roberts is a member, would have to wait a year before they could go to voters again.

Instead, District 6 board members opted to cancel their election and hold it
in May, when they would carve Roberts' property out of the taxing jurisdiction.

But state officials said under state law, an emergency services district is
required to hold an election when it calls one and doesn't have the authority to cancel it.

"It is going forth to the voters, and the county will tally it," said
Randall Dillard, a spokesman for the secretary of state's elections division.